Therapeutic hypothermia: neuroprotective mechanisms

Front Biosci. 2007 Jan 1:12:816-25. doi: 10.2741/2104.


Hypothermia has long been known to be a potent putative neuroprotectant. Experimental evidence and clinical experience show that hypothermia protects the brain from cerebral injury. Recent insights into the mechanisms of cerebral ischemia and reperfusion suggest reasons why hypothermia may be an ideal modality for stroke therapy. Hypothermia protects brain tissue in multiple ways. It retards energy depletion, reduces intracellular acidosis, lessens the ischemia related accumulation of excitotoxic neurotransmitters, and attenuates the influx of intracellular calcium. Additionally, hypothermia suppresses the generation of oxygen free radicals involved in secondary damage associated with reperfusion. It also suppresses the mechanisms related to blood-brain barrier degeneration and postischemic remodeling. The clinical application of therapeutic hypothermia and its limitations will be summarized in this paper. Therapeutic hypothermia is likely to undergo phase III clinical trials in various clinical settings. Novel technologies are being developed to optimize the safety and efficacy of this promising approach.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Coagulation
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy*
  • Cytoprotection
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Stroke / therapy*