Combination of intracortically administered VEGF and environmental enrichment enhances brain protection in developing rats
Naiara Ortuzar, Enrike G. Argandon ̃a, Harkaitz Bengoetxea, Jose ́ V. Lafuente
J Neural Transm doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0496-2
Postnatal development of the visual cortex is modulated by experience, especially during the critical period. In rats, a stable neuronal population is only acquired after this relatively prolonged period. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the most important angiogenic factor and also has strong neuroprotective, neurotrophic and neurogenic properties. Similar effects have been described for rearing in enriched environments. Our aim is to investigate the vascular and neuronal effects of combining VEGF infusion and environmental enrichment on the visual cortex during the initial days of the critical period. Results showed that a small percentage of Cleaved Caspase-3 positive cells colocalized with neuronal markers. The lesion produced by the cannula implantation resulted in decreased vascular, neuronal and Caspase-3 positive cell densities. Rearing under enriched environment was unable to reverse these effects in any group, whereas VEGF infusion alone partially corrected those effects. A higher effectiveness was reached by combining both the procedures, the most effective combination being when enriched-environment rearing was introduced only after minipump implantation. In addition to the angiogenic effect of VEGF, applied strategies also had synergic neuroprotective effects, and the combination of the two strategies had more remarkable effects than those achieved by each strategy applied individually.