Astrocyte-specific insulin-like growth factor-1 gene transfer in aging female rats improves stroke outcomes.
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Middle aged female rats sustain larger stroke infarction and disability than younger female rats. This older group also shows age-related reduction of insulin like growth factor (IGF)-1 in serum and in astrocytes, a cell type necessary for poststroke recovery. To determine the impact of astrocytic IGF-1 for ischemic stroke, these studies tested the hypothesis that gene transfer of IGF-1 to astrocytes will improve stroke outcomes in middle aged female rats. Middle aged (10-12 month old), acyclic female rats were injected with recombinant adeno-associated virus serotype 5 (AAV5) packaged with the coding sequence of the human (h)IGF-1 gene downstream of an astrocyte-specific promoter glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) (AAV5-GFP-hIGF-1) into the striatum and cortex. The AAV5-control consisted of an identical shuttle vector construct without the hIGF-1 gene (AAV5-GFAP-control). Six to eight weeks later, animals underwent transient (90 min) middle cerebral artery occlusion via intraluminal suture. While infarct volume was not altered, AAV5-GFAP-hIGF-1 treatment significantly improved blood pressure and neurological score in the early acute phase of stroke (2 days) and sensory-motor performance at both the early and late (5 days) acute phase of stroke. AAV5-GFAP-hIGF-1 treatment also reduced circulating serum levels of GFAP, a biomarker for blood brain barrier permeability. Flow cytometry analysis of immune cells in the brain at 24 hr poststroke showed that AAV5-GFAP-hIGF-1 altered the type of immune cells trafficked to the ischemic hemisphere, promoting an anti-inflammatory profile. Collectively, these studies show that targeted enhancement of IGF-1 in astrocytes of middle-aged females improves stroke-induced behavioral impairment and neuroinflammation.