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PLoS One. 2016 Feb 22;11(2):e0149309. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149309. eCollection 2016.

Neuroprotective Role of Intermittent Hypobaric Hypoxia in Unpredictable Chronic Mild Stress Induced Depression in Rats.

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Neurobiology Division, Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences, DRDO, Lucknow Road, Timarpur, Delhi-110054, India.


Hypoxic exposure results in several pathophysiological conditions associated with nervous system, these include acute and chronic mountain sickness, loss of memory, and high altitude cerebral edema. Previous reports have also suggested the role of hypoxia in pathogenesis of depression and related psychological conditions. On the other hand, sub lethal intermittent hypoxic exposure induces protection against future lethal hypoxia and may have beneficial effect. Therefore, the present study was designed to explore the neuroprotective role of intermittent hypobaric hypoxia (IHH) in Unpredictable Chronic Mild Stress (UCMS) induced depression like behaviour in rats. The IHH refers to the periodic exposures to hypoxic conditions interrupted by the normoxic or lesser hypoxic conditions. The current study examines the effect of IHH against UCMS induced depression, using elevated plus maze (EPM), open field test (OFT), force swim test (FST), as behavioural paradigm and related histological and molecular approaches. The data indicated the UCMS induced depression like behaviour as evident from decreased exploration activity in OFT with increased anxiety levels in EPM, and increased immobility time in the FST; whereas on providing the IHH (5000m altitude, 4hrs/day for two weeks) these behavioural changes were ameliorated. The morphological and molecular studies also validated the neuroprotective effect of IHH against UCMS induced neuronal loss and decreased neurogenesis. Here, we also explored the role of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in anticipatory action of IHH against detrimental effect of UCMS as upon blocking of BDNF-TrkB signalling the beneficial effect of IHH was nullified. Taken together, the findings of our study demonstrate that the intermittent hypoxia has a therapeutic potential similar to an antidepressant in animal model of depression and could be developed as a preventive therapeutic option against this pathophysiological state.

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