Background: One of the pathological hallmarks of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is the selective vulnerability of late oligodendrocyte progenitors (preoligodendrocytes; preOLs) to hypoxia-ischemia (H-I). It is unknown whether recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) protects preOLs in vivo. Objectives: To develop a rat PVL model in which preOLs are selectively damaged and exhibit similar pathological changes to diffuse-type human PVL, various conditions of H-I were compared in P2–P7 rats (P2 = postnatal day 2). To evaluate the effect of rhEPO on oligoprotection (preOLs), rhEPO was administered to P3 PVL rats. Methods: After counts of NG2-positive and O4-positive cells were performed in P2–P7 rats, right common carotid artery occlusion followed by 6% O2 for 0–120 min was performed in P2–P4 rats. The mortality and histological alterations after hematoxylin/eosin staining and ED1 immunostaining were assessed 2 days after H-I. Various doses of rhEPO (1–30,000 U/kg i.p.) were administered to PVL rats 15 min before administration of 6% O2. Results: Double-positive cells for NG2 and O4 were detected from P2, and their number gradually increased until P7. Although right common carotid artery occlusion with 6% O2 for 60 min resulted in a relatively high proportion of deaths in P2–P4 rats, typical histological changes in the PVL diffuse component were found in most surviving P3 animals. With 50–100 U/kg rhEPO, the histological damage was attenuated. Conclusions: Histological changes similar to those seen in the PVL diffuse component were induced by H-I in P3 rats, in which preOLs were gradually developing, and a low dose of rhEPO was effective in the treatment of brain damage induced by H-I.
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