Butylphthalide's Impact on Preventing Brain Swelling at High Altitudes

Jim Crocker
2nd April, 2024

Butylphthalide's Impact on Preventing Brain Swelling at High Altitudes

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study at Qingyang People's Hospital finds celery seed compound may reduce brain swelling in HACE
  • Treated rats showed less brain damage and lower levels of harmful proteins linked to cell death
  • Celery seed compound also decreased inflammation and oxidative stress, which contribute to HACE
High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is a severe and potentially fatal condition that can affect people who ascend to high altitudes too quickly without proper acclimatization. Characterized by brain swelling due to fluid leakage, HACE is a complication of acute mountain sickness and can lead to disorientation, coma, and even death if not treated promptly. Previous research has shown that the condition may be linked to increased blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability under hypoxic conditions, where the brain does not receive enough oxygen[2][3]. Researchers at Qingyang People's Hospital have taken a significant step forward in the potential treatment of HACE[1]. Their study focused on 3-n-butylphthalide (NBP), a compound found in celery seed, known for its wide-ranging pharmacological effects, including the ability to protect brain cells and improve blood flow within the brain[4]. This study aimed to determine whether NBP could mitigate the effects of HACE in a controlled animal model. Using male Sprague-Dawley rats, the study first induced a state mimicking HACE by exposing the animals to a low-oxygen environment akin to high altitudes and then treating them with NBP. Researchers measured various indicators of HACE, such as brain water content, to assess swelling, and monitored changes in body weight. They also looked at the brain tissue under a microscope to identify any damage. To understand the underlying mechanisms, they measured levels of inflammatory markers, oxidative stress indicators, and neurotransmitters — chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Finally, they analyzed the expression of proteins associated with cell death (apoptosis) in the brain tissues. The findings were promising. Rats treated with NBP showed a reduction in brain water content, suggesting that NBP was effective in reducing the edema. The brain tissue of these rats also exhibited less damage when compared to untreated rats. Furthermore, NBP appeared to influence the levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are thought to play a role in the development of HACE. Notably, NBP treatment led to a decrease in the expression of proteins that promote apoptosis, indicating a protective effect against cell death in the brain. These results build on earlier studies that have explored the causes and potential treatments for HACE. The findings from the Qingyang People's Hospital study align with previous research suggesting that acute hypoxia can damage the BBB, leading to brain swelling[2][3]. Moreover, the study extends the understanding of how NBP can be beneficial in neurological conditions by demonstrating its effects on brain swelling and cellular damage specifically in the context of HACE. The study also compared the effects of NBP with another natural remedy, Rhodiola rosea, known for its adaptogenic properties that help the body resist physical and mental stress. While the study primarily highlighted the benefits of NBP, this comparison could pave the way for future research into combining or selecting optimal treatments for HACE. In summary, this recent study from Qingyang People's Hospital provides evidence that NBP could be a promising treatment for HACE, offering a potential lifeline for individuals affected by this serious condition. By reducing brain swelling, protecting against tissue damage, and modulating inflammatory and oxidative responses, NBP may help to safeguard the brain against the detrimental effects of high-altitude exposure. Further research, including clinical trials in humans, will be necessary to confirm these findings and potentially incorporate NBP into treatment protocols for HACE.

MedicineAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Effect of butylphthalide on prevention and treatment of high altitude cerebral edema in rats.

Published 30th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Establishment and evaluation of an experimental animal model of high altitude cerebral edema.


3) Effects of acute hypoxia and hyperthermia on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier in adult rats.


4) Application and prospects of butylphthalide for the treatment of neurologic diseases.


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