Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) was found to promote collateral flow in patients with coronary artery disease and also to induce arteriogenesis in a rat hypoperfusion brain model. Activated macrophages have been shown to induce vascular proliferation and play an important role in ischemic stroke. In this study, we examined the therapeutic effect of GM-CSF on the ischemic brain by activating microglia/macrophages. Rats were subjected to 1-h intraluminal middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and received an intracarotid injection of GM-CSF (5 ng) or saline immediately after reperfusion. Infarct volume, neurological function and histological findings were assessed 48 h later. An intracarotid injection of GM-CSF reduced the infarct volume and improved neurological function at 48 h after reperfusion. Histological analysis revealed that the number of activated microglia/macrophages to be increased and the number of apoptotic cells to be decreased in the area of the penumbra. These results suggest that intracarotid injection of GM-CSF may have a therapeutic effect on brain ischemia via activation of microglia/macrophages.
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