Therapeutic interventions targeting secondary insults, such as delayed hypoxemia, provide a unique opportunity for treatment in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hypoxia-responsive cytokine with important roles in neurodevelopment, neuroprotection and neuromodulation. We hypothesized that recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) administration would mitigate injury in a combined injury model of TBI and delayed hypoxemia. Utilizing a clinically relevant murine model of TBI and delayed hypoxemia, we characterized how ongoing rhEPO administration influenced neurogenesis, neuroprotection, synaptic density and, behavioral outcomes early after TBI, and the impact on long-lasting outcomes 6 months after injury. We employed novel object recognition (NOR) and fear conditioning to assess long-term memory. At 1-month post-injury, we observed a significant increase in cued-fear memory response in the rhEPO-injured mice compared with vehicle-injured mice. This was associated with neuroprotection and neurogenesis in the hippocampus and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) signaling activation and increased of excitatory synaptic density in the amygdala. Early rhEPO treatment after injury reduced neurodegeneration and increased excitatory synaptic density in the hippocampus and amygdala at 6 months post-injury. However at 6 months post-injury (4 months after discontinuation of rhEPO), we did not observe changes in behavioral assessments nor MAPK/CREB pathway activation. In summary, these data demonstrate that ongoing rhEPO treatment initiated at a clinically feasible time point improves neurological, cognitive, and histological outcomes after TBI in the setting of secondary hypoxemic insults.
- Fear conditioning
- Traumatic brain injury