This study is to explore the neuroprotective effects and involved glial scar of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) on the late cerebral ischemia in rats. Focal cerebral ischemia was induced by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in Sprague Dawley rats that were randomly divided into sham group, MCAO group, edaravone group (as a positive control) and saffron groups (saffron extract 30, 100, 300 mg/kg). Saffron was administered orally at 2 h at the first day and once daily from day 2 to 42 after ischemia. Behavioral changes were detected from day 43 to 46 after ischemia to evaluate the effects of saffron. Infarct volume, survival neuron density, activated astrocyte, and the thickness of glial scar were also detected. GFAP, neurocan, phosphocan, neurofilament expressions and inflammatory cytokine contents were detected by Western-blotting and ELISA methods, respectively. Saffron improved the body weight loss, neurological deficit and spontaneous activity. It also ameliorated anxiety-like state and cognitive dysfunction, which were detected by elevated plus maze (EPM), marble burying test (MBT) and novel object recognition test (NORT). Toluidine blue staining found that saffron treatment decreased the infarct volume and increased the neuron density in cortex in the ischemic boundary zone. The activated astrocyte number and the thickness of glial scar in the penumbra zone reduced after saffron treatment. Additionally, saffron decreased the contents of IL-6 and IL-1β, increased the content of IL-10 in the ischemic boundary zone. GFAP, neurocan, and phosphocan expressions in ischemic boundary zone and ischemic core zone all decreased after saffron treatment. Saffron exerted neuroprotective effects on late cerebral ischemia, associating with attenuating astrogliosis and glial scar formation after ischemic injury.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS.
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