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Early Onset of Lipid Peroxidation After Human Traumatic Brain Injury
  1. Luciano Cristofori,
  2. Barbara Tavazzi,
  3. Roberta Gambin,
  4. Roberto Vagnozzi,
  5. Carlo Vivenza,
  6. Angela Maria Amorini,
  7. Donato Di Pierro,
  8. Giovanna Fazzina,
  9. Giuseppe Lazzarino
  1. 1From the Department of Neurosurgery (L.C., R.G., C.V.), University Hospital of Verona, Verona, Italy
  2. 2Department of Experimental Medicine and Biochemical Sciences (B.T., D.D.P.) University of Rome “Tor Vergata,”Rome, Italy
  3. 3Department of Neurosciences, Chair of Neurosurgery (R.V.), University of Rome “Tor Vergata,”Rome, Italy;
  4. 4Department of Chemical Sciences, Laboratory of Biochemistry (A.M.A., G.F., G.L.), University of Catania, Catania, Italy.
  1. This study has been supported by research funds from Rome “Tor Vergata” and Catania Universities.
  2. Address correspondence to: Prof. Giuseppe Lazzarino, Department of Chemical Sciences, Laboratory of Biochemistry, University of Catania, Viale A. Doria 6, 95125 Catania, Italy. E-mail lazzarig{at}

A Fatal Limitation for the Free Radical Scavenger Pharmacological Therapy?


Background On the basis of the contradiction between data on experimental head trauma showing oxidative stress-mediated cerebral tissue damage and failure of the majority of clinical trials using free radical scavenger drugs, we monitored the time-course changes of malondialdehyde (MDA, an index of cell lipid peroxidation), ascorbate, and dephosphorylated ATP catabolites in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of traumatic brain-injured patients.

Methods CSF samples were obtained from 20 consecutive patients suffering from severe brain injury. All patients were comatose, with a Glasgow Coma Scale on admission of 6±1. The first CSF sample for each patient was collected within a mean value of 2.95 hours from trauma (SD=1.98), after the insertion of a ventriculostomy catheter for the continuous monitoring of intracranial pressure. During the next 48 hours, CSF was withdrawn from each patient once every 6 hours. All samples were analyzed by an ion-pairing high-performance liquid chromatographic method for the simultaneous determination of MDA, ascorbic acid, hypoxanthine, xanthine, uric acid, inosine, and adenosine.

Results In comparison with values recorded in 10 herniated-lumbar-disk, noncerebral control patients, data showed that all CSF samples of brain-injured patients had high values (0.226 μmol/L; SD=0.196) of MDA (undetectable in samples of control patients) and decreased ascorbate levels (96.25 μmol/L; SD=31.74), already at the time of first withdrawal at the time of hospital admission. MDA was almost constant in the next two withdrawals and tended to decrease thereafter, although 48 hours after hospital admission, a mean level of 0.072 μmol/L CSF (SD=0.026) was still recorded. The ascorbate level was normalized 42 hours after hospital admission. Changes in the CSF values of ATP degradation products (oxypurines and nucleosides) suggested a dramatic alteration of neuronal energy metabolism after traumatic brain injury.

Conclusions On the whole, these data demonstrate the early onset of oxygen radical-mediated oxidative stress, proposing a valid explanation for the failure of clinical trials based on the administration of oxygen free radical scavenger drugs and suggesting a possible rationale for testing the efficacy of lipid peroxidation “chain breakers” in future clinical trials.

  • human traumatic brain injury
  • reactive oxygen species
  • lipid peroxidation
  • malondialdehyde
  • cerebrospinal fluid

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