Cognitive impairment is a significant sequela of traumatic brain injury (TBI) especially blast induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI), which is characterized by rapid impairments of learning and memory ability. Although several neuroprotective agents have been postulated as promising drugs for bTBI in animal studies, very few ideal therapeutic options exist to improve cognitive impairment following bTBI. Thymosin α1(Tα1), a 28-amino-acid protein that possesses immunomodulatory functions, has exhibited beneficial effects in the treatment of infectious diseases, immunodeficiency diseases and cancers. However, it remains unclear whether Tα1 has a therapeutic role in bTBI. Thus, we hypothesized that Tα1 administration could reverse the outcomes of bTBI. The blast induced TBI (bTBI) rat model was established with the compressed gas driven blast injury model system. A consecutive Tα1 therapy (in 1 ml saline, twice a day) at a dose of 200µg/kg or normal saline (NS) (1ml, twice a day) for 3 days or 2 weeks was performed. Utilizing our newly designed bTBI model, we investigated the beneficial effects of Tα1 therapy on rats exposed to bTBI including: cognitive functions, general histology, regulatory T (Treg) cells, edema, inflammation reactions and the expression and phosphorylation level of tau via Morris Water Maze test (MWM test), HE staining, flow cytometry, brain water content (BWC) calculation, IL-6 assay and Western blotting, respectively. Tα1 treatment seemed to reduce the 24-hour mortality, albeit with no statistical significance. Moreover, Tα1 treatment markedly improved cognitive dysfunction by decreasing the escape latency in the acquisition phase, and increasing the crossing numbers in the probe phase of MWM test. More interestingly, Tα1 significantly inhibited tau phosphorylation at the Thr205 epitope, but not at the Ser404 and Ser262 epitopes. Tα1 increased the percentage of Treg cells and inhibited plasma IL-6 production on 3d post bTBI. Moreover, Tα1 suppressed brain edema as demonstrated by decrease of BWC. However, there was a lack of obvious change in histopathology in the brain upon Tα1 treatment. This is the first study showing that Tα1 improves neurological deficits after bTBI in rats, which is potentially related to the inhibition of tau phosphorylation at the Thr205 epitope, increased Treg cells and decreased inflammatory reactions and brain edema.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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