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Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 12;153(1):77-86.

Erythropoietin improves long-term spatial memory deficits and brain injury following neonatal hypoxia-ischemia in rats.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Dokuz Eylul University, Inciralti, 35340 Izmir, Turkey.


It is well known that neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury leads to mental retardation and deficits in cognitive abilities such as learning and memory in human beings. The ameliorative effect of erythropoietin (Epo) on experimental hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in neonatal rats has been recently reported. However, the effect of Epo on cognitive abilities in the hypoxic-ischemic brain injury model is unknown. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of Epo on learning-memory, behavior and neurodegeneration induced by hypoxia-ischemia. Seven days old Wistar Albino rat pups have been used in the study (n = 28). Experimental groups in the study were: (1) saline-treated hypoxia-ischemia group, (2) Epo-treated (i.p., 1000 U/kg) hypoxia-ischemia group, (3) sham-operated group, (4) control group. In hypoxia-ischemia groups, left common carotid artery was ligated permanently on the seventh postnatal day. Two hours after the procedure, hypoxia (92% nitrogen and 8% oxygen) was induced for 2.5 h. Epo was administered as a single dose immediately after the hypoxia period. When pups were 22 days old, learning experiments were performed using Morris water maze. On the 20th week, when brain development is accepted to be complete, learning experiments were repeated. Rats were then perfused and brains removed for macroscopic and microscopic evaluation. Epo treatment immediately after hypoxic-ischemic insult significantly improved long-term neurobehavioral achievements when tested during the subsequent phase of brain maturation and even into adulthood. Histopathological evaluation demonstrated that Epo also significantly diminished brain injury and spared hippocampal CA1 neurons. In conclusion, Epo administrated as a single dose immediately after neonatal hypoxic-ischemic insult provides benefit over a prolonged period in the still developing rat brain. Since the wide use of Epo in premature newborns, this agent may be potentially beneficial in treating asphyxial brain damage in the perinatal period.

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