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Lactate: Brain Fuel in Human Traumatic Brain Injury: A Comparison with Normal Healthy Control Subjects


We evaluated the hypothesis that lactate shuttling helps support the nutritive needs of injured brains. To that end, we utilized dual isotope tracer [6,6-(2)H2]glucose, that is, D2-glucose, and [3-(13)C]lactate techniques involving arm vein tracer infusion along with simultaneous cerebral (arterial [art] and jugular bulb [JB]) blood sampling. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients with nonpenetrating brain injuries (n=12) were entered into the study following consent of patients' legal representatives. Written and informed consent was obtained from control volunteers (n=6). Patients were studied 5.7±2.2 (mean±SD) days post-injury; during periods when arterial glucose concentration tended to be higher in TBI patients. As in previous investigations, the cerebral metabolic rate for glucose (CMRgluc, i.e., net glucose uptake) was significantly suppressed following TBI (p<0.001). However, lactate fractional extraction, an index of cerebral lactate uptake related to systemic lactate supply, approximated 11% in both healthy control subjects and TBI patients. Further, neither the CMR for lactate (CMRlac, i.e., net lactate release), nor the tracer-measured cerebral lactate uptake differed between healthy controls and TBI patients. The percentages of lactate tracer taken up and released as (13)CO2 into the JB accounted for 92% and 91% for control and TBI conditions, respectively, suggesting that most cerebral lactate uptake was oxidized following TBI. Comparisons of isotopic enrichments of lactate oxidation from infused [3-(13)C]lactate tracer and (13)C-glucose produced during hepatic and renal gluconeogenesis (GNG) showed that 75-80% of (13)CO2 released into the JB was from lactate and that the remainder was from the oxidation of glucose secondarily labeled from lactate. Hence, either directly as lactate uptake, or indirectly via GNG, peripheral lactate production accounted for ∼70% of carbohydrate (direct lactate uptake+uptake of glucose from lactate) consumed by the injured brain. Undiminished cerebral lactate fractional extraction and uptake suggest that arterial lactate supplementation may be used to compensate for decreased CMRgluc following TBI.

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