This study explored the protective effect and mechanism of hydrogen‑rich saline (HRS) on the neurological function of mice with cerebral ischemia. Effects of HRS on neurological function in mice with cerebral ischemia were evaluated by neurological function scores. Infarct volume and histological damage were evaluated by 2,3,5‑triphenyl tetrazolium chloride staining (TTC staining). Golgi‑Cox staining was conducted to measure the morphological changes of neuronal dendrites and dendritic spines. The expression of neuronal markers was detected by immunofluorescence. Western blot was used to detect protein expression. The infarct volume of mice in the HRS‑H group decreased significantly compared to that of the distal middle cerebral artery occlusion (dMCAO) group. Mice in the HRS‑H group had a lower neurological deficit score than that in the dMCAO group. Compared to the dMCAO group, the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and the level of glutathione (GSH) significantly increased in the HRS‑H group. Compared with the dMCAO group, the number of apoptotic cells in the HRS‑H group decreased. Administration of HRS was shown to be able to decrease cavitation of the brain cortex after ischemia. The spine density in the HRS‑H group increased compared to that of the dMCAO group. In the in vitro experiment, compared with the oxygen‑glucose deprivation (OGD) group, the active oxygen content in the 75% HRM group decreased, and the mitochondrial membrane potential and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content increased. Compared with the OGD group, the ratio of P‑AMPK and the levels of LC3II/LC3I in the hydrogen‑rich medium (HRM) group was upregulated, and P‑mTOR levels and P62 levels in the HRM group were down‑regulated. HRS can enhance neuroplasticity after ischemia and promote neurological recovery in mice with cerebral ischemia, which may involve the autophagy pathway mediated by the AMPK/mTOR signaling pathway.
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