Cerebral ischemia is caused by reduced cerebral blood flow due to a transient or permanent cerebral artery occlusion. Ischemic injury in the brain leads to neuronal cell death, and eventually causes neurological impairments. Cordyceps, the name given to the fungi on insects, has abundant useful natural products with various biological activities. Cordyceps is known to have nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects. We investigated the effects of Cordyceps on short-term memory, neuronal apoptosis, and cell proliferation in the hippocampal dentate gyrus following transient global ischemia in gerbils. For this study, a step-down avoidance test, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assay, immunohistochemistry for caspase-3 and 5-bromo-2'-de-oxyuridine, and western blot for Bax, Bcl-2, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and tyrosin kinase B were performed. In the present study, Cordyceps alleviated cerebral ischemia-induced short-term memory impairment. Cordyceps showed therapeutic effects through inhibiting cerebral ischemia-induced apoptosis in the hippocampus. Cordyceps suppressed cerebral ischemia-induced cell proliferation in the hippocampal dentate gyrus due to the reduced apoptotic neuronal cell death. Cordyceps treatment also enhanced BDNF and TrkB expressions in the hippocampus of ischemic gerbils. It can be suggested that Cordyceps overcomes cerebral ischemia-induced neuronal apoptosis, thus facilitates recovery following cerebral ischemia injury.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Cerebral ischemia; Cordyceps; Short-term memory.