Background: We and others have reported that rapid ischemic postconditioning, interrupting early reperfusion after stroke, reduces infarction in rats. However, its extremely short therapeutic time windows, from a few seconds to minutes after reperfusion, may hinder its clinical translation. Thus, in this study we explored if delayed postconditioning, which is conducted a few hours after reperfusion, offers protection against stroke.
Methods and results: Focal ischemia was generated by 30 min occlusion of bilateral common carotid artery (CCA) combined with permanent occlusion of middle cerebral artery (MCA); delayed postconditioning was performed by repetitive, brief occlusion and release of the bilateral CCAs, or of the ipsilateral CCA alone. As a result, delayed postconditioning performed at 3h and 6h after stroke robustly reduced infarct size, with the strongest protection achieved by delayed postconditioning with 6 cycles of 15 min occlusion/15 min release of the ipsilateral CCA executed from 6h. We found that this delayed postconditioning provided long-term protection for up to two months by reducing infarction and improving outcomes of the behavioral tests; it also attenuated reduction in 2-[(18)F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG)-uptake therefore improving metabolism, and reduced edema and blood brain barrier leakage. Reperfusion in ischemic stroke patients is usually achieved by tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) application, however, t-PA's side effect may worsen ischemic injury. Thus, we tested whether delayed postconditioning counteracts the exacerbating effect of t-PA. The results showed that delayed postconditioning mitigated the worsening effect of t-PA on infarction.
Conclusion: Delayed postconditioning reduced ischemic injury after focal ischemia, which opens a new research avenue for stroke therapy and its underlying protective mechanisms.