Background Animal models of preterm brain injury can be achieved by Hypoxia-Ischemia (HI). Lactoferrin (Lf) is an iron-binding glycoprotein with anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious activities. In rodents, after oral administration, Lf is rapidly transferred from the intestine into the brain.
Aim The aim of this work was to assess the neuroprotective effect of Lf supplementation trough lactation after P3 HI brain injury by using MRI.
Methods At birth, rat pups were divided in 3 groups: The dams of the HI-Lf group (n=6) received Lf-enriched food, HI-Iso received a diet isocaloric to the Lf (n=6) and a Sham group (n=3). At P3 pups from HI-Lf and HI-Iso groups underwent HI injury. At P25, T2W images, 1H-MRS and DTI were performed. A Mann-Whitney test was used to compare values between the different groups.
Results When compared to HI-Iso group, the number of rats injured (51% vs. 61%), the percentage of injured cortex at P3 (4.9±3.6% vs. 15.0±7.1%, P=0.02) as well as the percentage of cortical loss at P25 (4.6±4.8% vs. 16.7±11.9%, P=0.09) were reduced in the HI-Lf group. At P25, using 1H-MRS, brain metabolites of HI-Lf rats is almost normalized with [Glu+Gln] only remaining decreased whereas the Iso-HI group showed also decreased levels of [Asp] and [totalNAA]. With DTI, white matter FA values tend to be higher in the HI-Lf group than in the HI-Iso group and were comparable to Sham.
Conclusion This study shows a potential neuroprotection from maternal nutritional supplementation with Lf after HI in the developing brain of progeny.