Acyl Ghrelin Improves Synapse Recovery in an In Vitro Model of Postanoxic Encephalopathy

Irina I. Stoyanova*, Jeannette Hofmeijer, Michel J.A.M. van Putten, Joost le Feber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Comatose patients after cardiac arrest have a poor prognosis. Approximately half never awakes as a result of severe diffuse postanoxic encephalopathy. Several neuroprotective agents have been tested, however without significant effect. In the present study, we used cultured neuronal networks as a model system to study the general synaptic damage caused by temporary severe hypoxia and the possibility to restrict it by ghrelin treatment. Briefly, we applied hypoxia (pO2 lowered from 150 to 20 mmHg) during 6 h in 55 cultures. Three hours after restoration of normoxia, half of the cultures were treated with ghrelin for 24 h, while the other, non-supplemented, were used as a control. All cultures were processed immunocytochemically for detection of the synaptic marker synaptophysin. We observed that hypoxia led to drastic decline of the number of synapses, followed by some recovery after return to normoxia, but still below the prehypoxic level. Additionally, synaptic vulnerability was selective: large- and small-sized neurons were more susceptible to synaptic damage than the medium-sized ones. Ghrelin treatment significantly increased the synapse density, as compared with the non-treated controls or with the prehypoxic period. The effect was detected in all neuronal subtypes. In conclusion, exogenous ghrelin has a robust impact on the recovery of cortical synapses after hypoxia. It raises the possibility that ghrelin or its analogs may have a therapeutic potential for treatment of postanoxic encephalopathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular neurobiology
Issue number9
Early online date6 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • METIS-313078
  • IR-98070
  • Brain hypoxia
  • Postanoxic encephalopathy
  • Synapse density
  • Ghrelin
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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