Folic acid enhances early functional recovery in a piglet model of pediatric head injury

Maryam Y. Naim, Stuart Friess, Colin Smith, Jill Ralston, Karen Ryall, Mark A. Helfaer, Susan S. Margulies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


For stroke and spinal cord injury, folic acid supplementation has been shown to enhance neurodevelopment and to provide neuroprotection. We hypothesized that folic acid would reduce brain injury and improve neurological outcome in a neonatal piglet model of traumatic brain injury (TBI), using 4 experimental groups of 3- to 5-day-old female piglets. Two groups were intubated, anesthetized and had moderate brain injury induced by rapid axial head rotation without impact. One group of injured (Inj) animals received folic acid (Fol; 80 μg/kg) by intraperitoneal (IP) injection 15 min following injury, and then daily for 6 days (Inj + Fol; n = 7). The second group of injured animals received an IP injection of saline (Sal) at the same time points (Inj + Sal; n = 8). Two uninjured (Uninj) control groups (Uninj + Fol, n = 8; Uninj + Sal, n = 7) were intubated, anesthetized and received folic acid (80 μg/kg) or saline by IP injection at the same time points as the injured animals following a sham procedure. Animals underwent neurobehavioral and cognitive testing on days 1 and 4 following injury to assess behavior, memory, learning and problem solving. Serum folic acid and homocysteine levels were collected prior to injury and again before euthanasia. The piglets were euthanized 6 days following injury, and their brains were perfusion fixed for histological analysis. Folic acid levels were significantly higher in both Fol groups on day 6. Homocysteine levels were not affected by treatment. On day 1 following injury, the Inj + Fol group showed significantly more exploratory interest, and better motor function, learning and problem solving compared to the Inj + Sal group. Inj + Fol animals had a significantly lower cognitive composite dysfunction score compared to all other groups on day 1. These functional improvements were not seen on day 4 following injury. Axonal injury measured by β-amyloid precursor protein staining 6 days after injury was not affected by treatment. These results suggest that folic acid may enhance early functional recovery in this piglet model of pediatric head injury. This is the first study to describe the application of complex functional testing to assess an intervention outcome in a swine model of TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)466-479
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Neuroscience
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Axonal injury
  • Folic acid
  • Neurobehavioral assessment
  • Neuroprotection
  • Pediatric brain injury
  • Swine
  • Traumatic brain injury


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