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Pediatr Res. 1997 May;41(5):599-606.

Reperfusion injury as the mechanism of brain damage after perinatal asphyxia.

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1
Children's Hospital, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Abstract

Upon reperfusion of ischemic tissues, reactive oxygen metabolites are generated and are responsible for much of the organ damage. Experimental studies have revealed two main sources of these metabolites: 1) the oxidation of hypoxanthine to xanthine and on to uric acid by the oxidase form of xanthine oxidoreductase and 2) neutrophils accumulating in ischemic and reperfused tissue. Blocking either source will reduce reperfusion damage in a number of experimental situations. Although xanthine oxidoreductase activity may be unmeasurably low in organs other than liver and intestine, it may be involved in reperfusion injury elsewhere because of its localization in capillary endothelial cells. Time course considerations suggest that substrate accumulation and NADH inhibition of dehydrogenase activity may be more important in the pathogenesis than conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase into the oxidase form. Neutrophil accumulation may be partly due to oxidants in the first place, suggesting a link between the two sources of reactive oxygen metabolites. In the clinical context, many of the sequelae of perinatal asphyxia may be accounted for by reperfusion damage to organs such as brain, kidney, heart, liver, and lungs. During asphyxia, substrates of xanthine oxidase accumulate, upon resuscitation the cosubstrate oxygen is introduced, and evidence for oxidant production and effects has been obtained. In the pathogenesis of brain damage after asphyxia, both microvascular injury and parenchymal cell damage are important. Oxygen metabolites are involved in the former, but in the latter process their role is less clear because ischemia-reperfusion triggers not only oxidant production but many other phenomena, including gene activation, ATP depletion, glutamate accumulation, and increase of intracellular calcium. A severe insult results in cell necrosis, but more moderate asphyxia may cause delayed neuronal death through apoptosis. The time course of the changes in high energy phosphates as well as of selective neuronal death suggest that in the first hours of life there is a "therapeutic window," with future possibilities for prevention of permanent damage.

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