It is vulnerable for aged subjects to postoperative cognitive dysfunction and many proof suggested exaggerated neuroinflammation after surgery is the vital cause, but the mechanism needs to be disclosed. Autophagy can inhibit inflammation and itself has protective effect on nervous system. The study aimed to explore whether au-tophagy itself and/or its anti-neuroinflammation action in hippocampus could attenuate postoperative cognitive decline in rats. Adult or aged rats were subjected to control, anesthesia alone or splenectomy protocol. Postoperative spatial learning and memory was evaluated by Morris water maze. Western blotting was used to determine the expression of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and autophagy specific proteins Beclin 1 and LC3II/I in the hippocampus. In aged rats, there was chronic neuroinflammation, decreased autophagy and cognition preoperatively, and exaggerated neuroinflammation, limited activation of autophagy and significant cognition decline postoperatively, compared with adult rats. The study revealed that autophagy itself or its anti-neuroinflammation action in hippocampus attenuates postoperative cognitive decline in aged rats.
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