Recently, hydrogen gas (H₂) is reported to be a new therapeutic agent in organ damage induced by ischemia-reperfusion (I/R). The present study was designed to investigate the beneficial effects of H₂ against spinal cord I/R injury and its associated mechanisms. Spinal cord ischemia was induced by infrarenal aortic occlusion for 20 min in male New Zealand white rabbits. Treatment with 1%, 2% or 4% H₂ inhalation was given from 10 min before reperfusion to 60 min after reperfusion (total 70 min). Here, we found that I/R-challenged animals showed significant spinal cord damage characterized by the decreased numbers of normal motor neurons and hind-limb motor dysfunction, which was significantly improved by 2% and 4 % H₂ treatment. Furthermore, we found that the beneficial effects of H₂ treatment against spinal cord I/R injury were associated with the decreased levels of oxidative products [8-iso-prostaglandin F2α (8-iso-PGF2α) and malondialdehyde (MDA)] and pro-inflammatory cytokines [tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1)], as well as increased activities of antioxidant enzymes [superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT)] in serum and spinal cord. In addition, H₂ treatment reduced motor neuron apoptosis in the spinal cord of this model. Thus, H₂ inhalation may be an effective therapeutic strategy for spinal cord I/R damage.
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