Neuroprotective effects of VNS on hippocampal neurons

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Neuroprotective effects of vagus nerve stimulation on hippocampal neurons in intractable epilepsy

Medical Hypotheses 81 (2013) 1066–1068

Authors: Ning Chen, Hong Zhang, Xiang-dong Gao, Na Yan, Yu Mae, Chun-jiang Yu

Purpose:

To provide a study design to prove the hypothesis that VNS protects against seizure-induced damage.

Methods:

The design of experiment is as follows: thirty-six male rats were divided into three groups: control group (n = 12; rats received saline injections without implantation of the electrodes into the VN); KA group (n = 12; rats received KA injections without implantation of the electrodes into the VN) and VNS group (n = 12; rats received KA injections after undergoing electrodes implantation into the left cervical VN with the IPG on). One month after VNS, neuronal cell survival, the activations of microglia and astrocytes and mRNA expression of IL-1β and TNF-α were measured in the hippocampus.

Discussion:

It has been demonstrated that electroacupuncture (EA) of the extremities results in stimulation of the Vagal Nerve and protection of hippocampus neurons, possibly by an anti-inflammatory response. Similarly, VNS can also suppress neural inflammatory responses, implying that VNS may protect hippocampal neurons against seizure-induced damage. With regards to the study described above: if VNS can significantly reduce the neuronal death, microglial and astrocyte activations and IL-1β and TNF-α in the hippocampus of VNS group compared with the KA group, the neuroprotective efficacy of VNS in the hippocampus will be confirmed. If the neuroprotective efficacy of VNS in the hippocampus is confirmed, VNS and EA at specific acupoints have both shown promising anticonvulsant effects in intractable epilepsy patients. The differences between these therapies are target selection and stimulation parameter modulation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24176140

Comments reviewer, Prof Van Nieuwenhuizen:

In this paper, the hypothesis is put forward that VNS protects hippocampal neurons against seizure-induced damage. This hypothesis is based on the finding of significant protection of hippocampal neurons in animal experiments with EA. This protection is assumed to be produced by inhibiting the expression of IL-1β and TNF-α in the hippocampus of KA (kainic acid) induced rats. As VNS and electroacupuncture have the same target (vagal nerve), VNS is assumed to protect against neuronal hippocampal damage as well. A study design is proposed for a controlled animal (rat) study. One month after VNS implantation, neuronal cell survival, activations of microglia and astrocytes and mRNA expressions of IL-1β and TNF-α are measured in the hippocampus. This way, the neuroprotective efficacy of VNS in the hippocampus can be confirmed.

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