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Neuroscience. 2009 Oct 20;163(3):877-89. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.07.012. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

Striatal neuroprotection with methylene blue.

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  • 1Institute for Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.


Recent literature indicates that low-dose Methylene Blue (MB), an autoxidizable dye with powerful antioxidant and metabolic enhancing properties, might prevent neurotoxin-induced neural damage and associated functional deficits. This study evaluated whether local MB may counteract the anatomical and functional effects of the intrastriatal infusion of the neurotoxin rotenone (Rot) in the rat. To this end, stereological analyses of striatal lesion volumes were performed and changes in oxidative energy metabolism in the striatum and related motor regions were mapped using cytochrome oxidase histochemistry. The influence of MB on striatal levels of oxidative stress induced by Rot was determined, and behavioral tests were used to investigate the effect of unilateral MB coadministration on motor asymmetry. Rot induced large anatomical lesions resembling "metabolic strokes," whose size was greatly reduced in MB-treated rats. Moreover, MB prevented the decrease in cytochrome oxidase activity and the perilesional increase in oxidative stress associated with Rot infusion in the striatum. MB also prevented the indirect effects of the Rot-induced lesion on cytochrome oxidase activity in related motor regions, such as the striatal regions rostral and caudal to the lesion, the substantia nigra compacta and reticulata, and the pedunculopontine nucleus. At a network level, MB maintained a global strengthening of functional connectivity in basal ganglia-thalamocortical motor circuits, as opposed to the functional decoupling observed in Rot-alone subjects. Finally, MB partially prevented the behavioral sensorimotor asymmetries elicited by Rot. These results are consistent with protective effects of MB against neurotoxic damage in the brain parenchyma. This study provides the first demonstration of the anatomical, metabolic and behavioral neuroprotective effects of MB in the striatum in vivo, and supports the notion that MB could be a valuable intervention against neural damage associated with oxidative stress and energy hypometabolism.

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