Cerebral ischemia has been clearly demonstrated after traumatic brain injury (TBI); however, neuroprotective therapies have not focused on improvement of the cerebral microcirculation. Blood soluble drag-reducing polymers (DRP), prepared from high molecular weight polyethylene oxide, target impaired microvascular perfusion by altering the rheological properties of blood and, until our recent reports, has not been applied to the brain. We hypothesized that DRP improve cerebral microcirculation and oxygenation after TBI. DRP were studied in healthy and traumatized rat brains and compared to saline controls. Using in-vivo two-photon laser scanning microscopy over the parietal cortex, we showed that after TBI, nanomolar concentrations of intravascular DRP significantly enhanced microvascular perfusion and tissue oxygenation in peri-contusional areas, preserved blood-brain barrier integrity and protected neurons. The mechanisms of DRP effects were attributable to reduction of the near-vessel wall cell-free layer which increased near-wall blood flow velocity, microcirculatory volume flow, and number of erythrocytes entering capillaries, thereby reducing capillary stasis and tissue hypoxia as reflected by a reduction in NADH. Our results indicate that early reduction in CBF after TBI is mainly due to ischemia; however, metabolic depression of contused tissue could be also involved.
Keywords: Brain metabolism; cerebral blood microcirculation; drag-reducing polymers; rheology; traumatic brain injury.