Preconditioning and tolerance against cerebral ischaemia: from experimental strategies to clinical use

Lancet Neurol. 2009 Apr;8(4):398-412. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(09)70054-7.


Neuroprotection and brain repair in patients after acute brain damage are still major unfulfilled medical needs. Pharmacological treatments are either ineffective or confounded by adverse effects. Consequently, endogenous mechanisms by which the brain protects itself against noxious stimuli and recovers from damage are being studied. Research on preconditioning, also known as induced tolerance, over the past decade has resulted in various promising strategies for the treatment of patients with acute brain injury. Several of these strategies are being tested in randomised clinical trials. Additionally, research into preconditioning has led to the idea of prophylactically inducing protection in patients such as those undergoing brain surgery and those with transient ischaemic attack or subarachnoid haemorrhage who are at high risk of brain injury in the near future. In this Review, we focus on the clinical issues relating to preconditioning and tolerance in the brain; specifically, we discuss the clinical situations that might benefit from such procedures. We also discuss whether preconditioning and tolerance occur naturally in the brain and assess the most promising candidate strategies that are being investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / immunology
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 / metabolism
  • Ischemic Preconditioning* / methods
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / immunology
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1