Impaired cerebellar development of premature infants and the associated impairment of cerebellar functions in cognitive development could be crucial factors for neurodevelopmental disorders. Anesthetic- and hyperoxia-induced neurotoxicity of the immature brain can lead to learning and behavioral disorders. Dexmedetomidine (DEX), which is associated with neuroprotective properties, is increasingly being studied for off-label use in the NICU. For this purpose, six-day-old Wistar rats (P6) were exposed to hyperoxia (80% O2) or normoxia (21% O2) for 24 h after DEX (5 µg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle (0.9% NaCl) application. An initial detection in the immature rat cerebellum was performed after the termination of hyperoxia at P7 and then after recovery in room air at P9, P11, and P14. Hyperoxia reduced the proportion of Calb1+-Purkinje cells and affected the dendrite length at P7 and/or P9/P11. Proliferating Pax6+-granule progenitors remained reduced after hyperoxia and until P14. The expression of neurotrophins and neuronal transcription factors/markers of proliferation, migration, and survival were also reduced by oxidative stress in different manners. DEX demonstrated protective effects on hyperoxia-injured Purkinje cells, and DEX without hyperoxia modulated neuronal transcription in the short term without any effects at the cellular level. DEX protects hyperoxia-damaged Purkinje cells and appears to differentially affect cerebellar granular cell neurogenesis following oxidative stress.

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Puls, von Haefen, Bührer, & Endesfelder.
Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) April 2023