Erythropoietin (EPO) is a glycoprotein initially identified as a hormone synthesized and secreted by the kidney that regulates erythropoiesis. EPO, and a group of its derivatives, are being evaluated as possible neuroprotective agents in cerebral ischemia. The objective of this study, using an in vitro model, was to determine how neuroEPO—which is a variant of EPO with a low sialic acid content—protects neurons from the toxic action of glutamate. Primary neuronal cultures were obtained from the forebrains of Wistar rat embryos after 17 days of gestation. Excitotoxicity was induced after nine days of in vitro culture by treatment with a medium containing 100 µM glutamate for 15 min. After this time, a new medium containing 100 ng of neuroEPO/mL was added. Morphological cell change was assessed by phase-contrast microscopy. Oxidative stress was analysed by measuring antioxidant and oxidant activity. After 24 h, the treatment with 100 ng of neuroEPO/mL showed a significant (p
< 0.01) decrease in mortality, compared to cells treated with glutamate alone. neuroEPO treatment decreased mortality and tended to reproduce the morphological characteristics of the control. The oxidative stress induced by glutamate is reduced after neuroEPO treatment. These results confirm that neuroEPO has a protective effect against neuronal damage induced by excitotoxicity, improving antioxidant activity in the neuron, and protecting it from oxidative stress.
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