Since the treatment window of thrombolytic therapy for stroke is limited, new therapy remains to be developed. We have recently developed low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) therapy to improve cognitive dysfunction in mouse models of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Here, we further aimed to examine whether our LIPUS therapy improves neurological recovery from ischemic stroke, and if so, to elucidate the mechanisms involved. In a mouse model of middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), we applied LIPUS (32 cycles, 193 mW/cm2) to the whole brain 3 times in the first week (days 1, 3, and 5) after MCAO. We evaluated neurological functions using behavioral tests and performed histological analyses. Furthermore, to elucidate how LIPUS works within the injured brain, we also tested the effects of LIPUS in endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)-deficient (eNOS−/−) mice. In wild-type mice, the LIPUS therapy markedly improved neurological functions in the tightrope and rotarod tests at 28 days after MCAO. Histological analyses showed that the LIPUS therapy significantly increased the numbers of CD31-positive blood vessels in the perifocal lesion and doublecortin (DCX)-positive neurons in the ischemic striatum, indicating the angio-neurogenesis effects of the therapy. Importantly, these beneficial effects of the LIPUS therapy were totally absent in eNOS−/− mice. No adverse effects of the LIPUS therapy were noted. These results indicate that the LIPUS therapy improves neurological functions after stroke through enhanced neuro-angiogenesis in mice in vivo in an eNOS-dependent manner, suggesting that it could a novel and non-invasive therapeutic option for stroke.
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