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J Neurotrauma. 2008 Feb;25(2):130-9. doi: 10.1089/neu.2007.0369.

Simvastatin-mediated upregulation of VEGF and BDNF, activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway, and increase of neurogenesis are associated with therapeutic improvement after traumatic brain injury.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan, USA.


This study was undertaken to evaluate the effect of simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering agent, on the Akt-mediated signaling pathway and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus in rats after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Adult male Wistar rats were divided into three groups: (1) sham group (n = 8); (2) saline control group (n = 40); and (3) simvastatin-treated group (n = 40). Controlled cortical impact (CCI) injury was performed over the left parietal lobe. Simvastatin was administered orally at a dose of 1 mg/kg starting at day 1 after TBI and then daily for 14 days. Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was injected intraperitoneally into rats. A modified Morris Water Maze (WM) task was performed between 31 and 35 days after treatment to test spatial memory (n = 8/group). Animals were sacrificed at 1, 3, 7, 14, and 35 days after treatment (n = 8/group/time point). Western blot was utilized to investigate the changes in the Akt-mediated signaling pathway. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) analyses were employed to measure vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and brain-derived neurotrophin factor (BDNF) expression. Immunohistochemical and fluorescent staining were performed to detect the BrdU- and neuronal nuclei (NeuN)/BrdU-positive cells. Our data show that simvastatin treatment increases phosphorylation of v-akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homolog (Akt), glycogen synthase kinase-3beta (GSK-3beta), and cAMP response element-binding proteins (CREB); elevates the expression of BDNF and VEGF in the DG; increases cell proliferation and differentiation in the DG; and enhances the recovery of spatial learning. These data suggest that the neurorestorative effect of simvastatin may be mediated through activation of the Akt-mediated signaling pathway, subsequently upregulating expression of growth factors and inducing neurogenesis in the DG of the hippocampus, thereby leading to restoration of cognitive function after TBI in rats.

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