Oxidative stress in closed-head injury: Brain antioxidant capacity as an indicator of functional outcome

Esther Shohami*, Elie Beit-Yannai, Michal Horowitz, Ron Kohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a role in the pathophysiology of brain damage. A number of therapeutic approaches, based on scavenging these radicals, have been attempted both in experimental models and in the clinical setting. In an experimental rat and mouse model of closed-head injury (CHI), we have studied the total tissue nonenzymatic antioxidant capacity to combat ROS. A major mechanism for neutralizing ROS uses endogenous low-molecular weight antioxidants (LMWA). This review deals with the source and nature of ROS in the brain, along with the endogenous defense mechanisms that fight ROS. Special emphasis is placed on LMWA such as ascorbate, urate, tocopherol, lipoic acid, and histidine-related compounds. A novel electrochemical method, using cyclic voltammetry for the determination of total tissue LMWA, is described. The temporal changes in brain LMWA after CHI, as part of the response of the tissue to high ROS levels, and the correlation between the ability of the brain to elevate LMWA and clinical outcome are addressed. We relate to the beneficial effects observed in heat-acclimated rats and the detrimental effects of injury found in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. Finally, we summarize the effects of cerebroprotective pharmacological agents including the iron chelator desferal, superoxide dismutase, a stable radical from the nitroxide family, and HU-211, a nonpsychotoropic cannabinoid with antioxidant properties. We conclude that ROS play a key role in the pathophysiology of brain injury, and that their neutralization by endogenous or exogenous antioxidants has a protective effect. It is suggested, therefore, that the brain responds to ROS by increasing LMWA, and that the degree of this response is correlated with clinical recovery. The greater the response, the more favorable the outcome.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1007-1019
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1997


  • Brain injury
  • Cerebroprotection
  • Oxidative stress
  • Reactive oxygen species


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