Radiation exposure due to radiological terrorism and military circumstances are a continuing threat for the civilian population. In an uncontrolled radiation event, it is likely that there will be other types of injury involved, including trauma. While radiation combined injury is recognized as an area of great significance, overall there is a paucity of information regarding the mechanisms underlying the interactions between irradiation and other forms of injury, or what countermeasures might be effective in ameliorating such changes. The objective of this study was to determine if difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) could reduce the adverse effects of single or combined injury if administered beginning 24 h after exposure. Eight-week-old C57BL/J6 young-adult male mice received whole-body cesium-137 (137Cs) irradiation with 4 Gy. Immediately after irradiation, unilateral traumatic brain injury was induced using a controlled cortical impact system. Forty-four days postirradiation, animals were tested for hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance in the Morris water maze. After cognitive testing, animals were euthanized and their brains snap frozen for immunohistochemical assessment of neuroinflammation (activated microglia) and neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Our data show that single and combined injuries induced variable degrees of hippocampus-dependent cognitive dysfunction, and when given 24 h post trauma, DFMO treatment ameliorated those effects. Cellular changes including neurogenesis and numbers of activated microglia were generally not associated with the cognitive changes. Further analyses also revealed that DFMO increased hippocampal protein levels of the antioxidants thioredoxin 1 and peroxiredoxin 3 compared to vehicle treated animals. While the mechanisms responsible for the improvement in cognition after DFMO treatment are not yet clear, these results constitute a basis for further development of DFMO as a countermeasure for ameliorating the of risks for cognitive dysfunction in individuals subjected to trauma and radiation combined injury.
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Vol. 182 • No. 5