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Remediation of Radiation-Induced Cognitive Dysfunction through Oral Administration of the Neuroprotective Compound NSI-189

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Clinical management of primary and secondary central nervous system (CNS) malignancies frequently includes radiotherapy to forestall tumor growth and recurrence after surgical resection. While cranial radiotherapy remains beneficial, adult and pediatric brain tumor survivors suffer from a wide range of debilitating and progressive cognitive deficits. Although this has been recognized as a significant problem for decades, there remains no clinical recourse for the unintended neurocognitive sequelae associated with these types of cancer treatments. In previous work, multiple mechanisms have been identified that contribute to radiation-induced cognitive dysfunction, including the inhibition of neurogenesis caused by the depletion of radiosensitive populations of stem and progenitor cells in the hippocampus. To explore the potential neuroprotective properties of a pro-neurogenic compound NSI-189, Long-Evans rats were subjected to a clinically relevant fractionated irradiation protocol followed by four weeks of NSI-189 administered daily by oral gavage. Animals were then subjected to five different behavioral tasks followed by an analysis of neurogenesis, hippocampal volume and neuroinflammation. Irradiated cohorts manifested significant behavioral decrements on all four spontaneous exploration tasks. Importantly, NSI-189 treatment resulted in significantly improved performance in four of these tasks: novel place recognition, novel object recognition, object in place and temporal order. In addition, there was a trend of improved performance in the contextual phase of the fear conditioning task. Importantly, enhanced cognition in the NSI-189-treated cohort was found to persist one month after the cessation of drug treatment. These neurocognitive benefits of NSI-189 coincided with a significant increase in neurogenesis and a significant decrease in the numbers of activated microglia compared to the irradiated cohort that was given vehicle alone. The foregoing changes were not accompanied by major changes in hippocampal volume. These data demonstrate that oral administration of a pro-neurogenic compound exhibiting anti-inflammatory indications could impart long-term neurocognitive benefits in the irradiated brain.

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