Hydrogen gas (H(2)) as a new medical gas exerts organ-protective effects through regulating oxidative stress, inflammation and apoptosis. In contrast to H(2), hydrogen-rich saline (HS) may be more suitable for clinical application. The present study was designed to investigate whether HS can offer a neuroprotective effect in a rat model of permanent focal cerebral ischemia and what mechanism(s) underlies the effect. Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to permanent focal cerebral ischemia induced by permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (pMCAO). Different doses of HS or normal saline were intraperitoneally administered at 5min after pMCAO or sham operation followed by injections at 6h, 12h and 24h. Here, we found that HS treatment significantly reduced infarct volume and improved neurobehavioral outcomes at 24h, 48h and 72h after pMCAO operation in a dose-dependent manner (P<0.05). Moreover, we found that HS treatment dose-dependently increased the activities of endogenous antioxidant enzymes (SOD and CAT) as well as decreased the levels of oxidative products (8-iso-PGF2α and MDA) and inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and HMGB1) in injured ipsilateral brain tissues at 6h, 12h and 24h after pMCAO operation (P<0.05). Thus, hydrogen-rich saline dose-dependently exerts a neuroprotective effect against permanent focal cerebral ischemia, and its beneficial effect is at least partially mediated by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. Molecular hydrogen may be an effective therapeutic strategy for stroke patients.
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