Perinatal asphyxia in preterm infants remains a significant contributor to abnormal long-Term neurodevelopmental outcomes. Recombinant human erythropoietin has potent non-haematopoietic neuroprotective properties, but there is limited evidence for protection in the preterm brain. Preterm (0.7 gestation) fetal sheep received sham asphyxia (sham occlusion) or asphyxia induced by umbilical cord occlusion for 25 min, followed by an intravenous infusion of vehicle (occlusion-vehicle) or recombinant human erythropoietin (occlusion-Epo, 5000 international units by slow push, then 832.5 IU/h), starting 30 min after asphyxia and continued until 72 h. Recombinant human erythropoietin reduced neuronal loss and numbers of caspase-3-positive cells in the striatal caudate nucleus, CA3 and dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, and thalamic medial nucleus (P < 0.05 vs. occlusion-vehicle). In the white matter tracts, recombinant human erythropoietin increased total, but not immature/mature oligodendrocytes (P < 0.05 vs. occlusion-vehicle), with increased cell proliferation and reduced induction of activated caspase-3, microglia and astrocytes (P < 0.05). Finally, occlusion-Epo reduced seizure burden, with more rapid recovery of electroencephalogram power, spectral edge frequency, and carotid blood flow. In summary, prolonged infusion of recombinant human erythropoietin after severe asphyxia in preterm fetal sheep was partially neuroprotective and improved electrophysiological and cerebrovascular recovery, in association with reduced apoptosis and inflammation.
- white matter