Carthamus tinctorius L. ameliorates brain injury followed by cerebral ischemia-reperfusion in rats by antioxidative and anti-inflammatory mechanisms

Document Type: Short Communication


1 Department of Critical Care Medicine, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Taichung, 40705, Taiwan

2 School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chang Gung University, Taoyuan, Taiwan

3 Research Center for Industry of Human Ecology, Chang Gung University of Science and Technology, Taoyuan, Taiwan

4 Animal Technology Laboratory, Agriculture Technology Research Institute, Miaoli, Taiwan

5 Department of Medical Research, Tungs’ Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital, Taichung 43503, Taiwan

6 School of Chinese Medicine, College of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

7 Research Center for Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

8 Graduate Institute of Integrated Medicine, College of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

9 Department of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan


Objective(s): Carthamus tinctorius L. (CT) or saffloweris widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. This study investigated the effects of CT extract (CTE) on ischemia–reperfusion (I/R) brain injury and elucidated the underlying mechanism.
Materials and Methods: The I/R model was conducted by occlusion of both common carotid arteries and right middle cerebral artery for 90 min followed by 24 hr reperfusion in Sprague-Dawley rats. CTE (0.2-0.6 g/kg) was administered intraperitoneally before and during ischemia, and during reperfusion period. The cerebral infarction area, neurological deficit scores, free radicals (lucigenin chemiluminescence counts) and pro-inflammatory cytokines expression were measured.
Results: Pretreatment and treatment with CTE significantly reduced the cerebral infarction area and neurological deficits. CTE (0.4 g/kg) also reduced blood levels of free radicals and expression of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β in the cerebral infarction area.
Conclusion: The reduction in I/R cerebral infarction caused by CTE is possibly associated with its antioxidation and anti-inflammatory properties.


1.   Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics--2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation 2014; 129:e28-e292.

2.   Mullen MT, Pisapia JM, Tilwa S, Messe SR, Stein SC. Systematic review of outcome after ischemic stroke due to anterior circulation occlusion treated with intravenous, intra-arterial, or combined intravenous+intra-arterial thrombolysis. Stroke 2012; 43:2350-2355.

3.   van der Worp HB, van Gijn J. Clinical practice. Acute ischemic stroke. N Engl J Med 2007; 357:572-579.

4.   Musuka TD, Wilton SB, Traboulsi M, Hill MD. Diagnosis and management of acute ischemic stroke: speed is critical. CMAJ 2015; 187:887-893.

5.   Khatri R, McKinney AM, Swenson B, Janardhan V. Blood-brain barrier, reperfusion injury, and hemorrhagic transformation in acute ischemic stroke. Neurology 2012; 79:S52-57.

6.   Chen HS, Qi SH, Shen JG. One-compound-multi-target: combination prospect of natural compounds with thrombolytic therapy in acute ischemic stroke. Curr Neuropharmacol 2016. [Epub ahead of print].

7.   Yu M, Sun ZJ, Li LT, Ge HY, Song CQ, Wang AJ. The beneficial effects of the herbal medicine Di-huang-yin-zi (DHYZ) on patients with ischemic stroke: A Randomized, Placebo controlled clinical study. Complement Ther Med 2015; 23:591-597.

8.   Olmez I, Ozyurt H. Reactive oxygen species and ischemic cerebrovascular disease. Neurochem Int 2012; 60:208-212.

9.   Liu Y, Wong TP, Aarts M, Rooyakkers A, Liu L, Lai TW, et al. NMDA receptor subunits have differential roles in mediating excitotoxic neuronal death both in vitro and in vivo.  J Neurosci 2007; 27:2846-2857.

10. Wong CH, Crack PJ. Modulation of neuro-inflammation and vascular response by oxidative stress following cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury. Curr Med Chem 2008; 15:1-14.

11. Hou YC, Liou KT, Chern CM, Wang YH, Liao JF, Chang S, et al. Preventive effect of silymarin in cerebral ischemia-reperfusion-induced brain injury in rats possibly through impairing NF-kappaB and STAT-1 activation. Phytomedicine 2010; 17:963-973.

12. Muir KW, Tyrrell P, Sattar N, Warburton E. Inflammation and ischaemic stroke. Curr Opin Neurol 2007; 20:334-342.

13. Yi JH, Park SW, Kapadia R, Vemuganti R. Role of transcription factors in mediating post-ischemic cerebral inflammation and brain damage. Neurochem Int 2007; 50:1014-1027.

14. Kong D, Xia W, Zhang Z, Xiao L, Yuan D, Liu Y,            et al. Safflower yellow injection combined with conventional therapy in treating unstable angina pectoris: a meta-analysis. J Tradit Chin Med 2013; 33:553-561.

15. Zhu HB, Zhang L, Wang ZH, Tian JW, Fu FH, Liu K, et al. Therapeutic effects of hydroxysafflor yellow A on focal cerebral ischemic injury in rats and its primary mechanisms. J Asian Natl Prod Res 2005; 7:607-613.

16. Wei X, Liu H, Sun X, Fu F, Zhang X, Wang J, et al. Hydroxysafflor yellow A protects rat brains against ischemia-reperfusion injury by antioxidant action. Neurosci Lett 2005; 386:58-62.

17. Wang Y, Chen P, Tang C, Li Y, Zhang H. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities of extract and two isolated flavonoids of Carthamus tinctorius L. J Ethnopharmacol 2014; 151:944-950.

18. Yu L, Chen C, Wang LF, Kuang X, Liu K, Zhang H, et al. Neuroprotective effect of kaempferol glycosides against brain injury and neuroinflammation by inhibiting the activation of NF-kappaB and STAT3 in transient focal stroke. PloS One 2013; 8:e55839.

19. Cheng CY, Su SY, Tang NY, Ho TY, Chiang SY, Hsieh CL. Ferulic acid provides neuroprotection against oxidative stress-related apoptosis after cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury by inhibiting ICAM-1 mRNA expression in rats. Brain Res 2008; 1209:136-150.

20. Tang NY, Liu CH, Hsieh CT, Hsieh CL. The anti-inflammatory effect of paeoniflorin on cerebral infarction induced by ischemia-reperfusion injury in Sprague-Dawley rats. Am J Chin Med 2010; 38:51-64.

21. Cheng CY, Su SY, Tang NY, Ho TY, Lo WY, Hsieh CL. Ferulic acid inhibits nitric oxide-induced apoptosis by enhancing GABA(B1) receptor expression in transient focal cerebral ischemia in rats. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2010; 31:889-899.

22. Hsieh CL, Cheng CY, Tsai TH, Lin IH, Liu CH, Chiang SY, et al. Paeonol reduced cerebral infarction involving the superoxide anion and microglia activation in ischemia-reperfusion injured rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2006; 106:208-215.

23. Aronowski J, Strong R, Grotta JC. Reperfusion injury: demonstration of brain damage produced by reperfusion after transient focal ischemia in rats. J Cereb Blood Flow  Metab 1997; 17:1048-1056.

24. Gursoy-Ozdemir Y, Can A, Dalkara T. Reperfusion-induced oxidative/nitrative injury to neurovascular unit after focal cerebral ischemia. Stroke 2004; 35:1449-1453.

25. Woitzik J, Schneider UC, Thome C, Schroeck H, Schilling L. Comparison of different intravascular thread occlusion models for experimental stroke in rats. J Neurosci Methods 2006; 151:224-231.

26. Cheng CY, Ho TY, Lee EJ, Su SY, Tang NY, Hsieh CL. Ferulic acid reduces cerebral infarct through its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects following transient focal cerebral ischemia in rats.  Am J Chin Med 2008; 36:1105-1119.

27. Kuhlmann CR, Zehendner CM, Gerigk M, Closhen D, Bender B, Friedl P, et al. MK801 blocks hypoxic blood-brain-barrier disruption and leukocyte adhesion. Neurosci Lett 2009; 449:168-172.

28. Neuhaus W, Burek M, Djuzenova CS, Thal SC, Koepsell H, Roewer N, et al. Addition of NMDA-receptor antagonist MK801 during oxygen/glucose deprivation moderately attenuates the upregulation of glucose uptake after subsequent reoxygenation in brain endothelial cells. Neurosci Lett 2012; 506:44-49.

29. Rodrigo R, Fernandez-Gajardo R, Gutierrez R, Matamala JM, Carrasco R, Miranda-Merchak A, et al. Oxidative stress and pathophysiology of ischemic stroke: novel therapeutic opportunities. CNS  Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2013; 12:698-714.

30. Dominguez C, Delgado P, Vilches A, Martin-Gallan P, Ribo M, Santamarina E, et al. Oxidative stress after thrombolysis-induced reperfusion in human stroke. Stroke 2010; 41:653-660.

31. Caraceni P, Rosenblum ER, Van Thiel DH, Borle AB. Reoxygenation injury in isolated rat hepatocytes: relation to oxygen free radicals and lipid peroxidation. Am J Physiol 1994; 266:G799-806.

32. Sun JS, Hang YS, Huang IH, Lu FJ. A simple chemiluminescence assay for detecting oxidative stress in ischemic limb injury. Free Radic Biol Med 1996; 20:107-112.

33. Takahashi R, Edashige K, Sato EF, Inoue M, Matsuno T, Utsumi K. Luminol chemiluminescence and active oxygen generation by activated neutrophils. Arch Biochem Biophys 1991; 285:325-330.

34. McNally JA, Bell AL. Myeloperoxidase-based chemiluminescence of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and monocytes. J Biolumin Chemilum 1996; 11:99-106.

35. Yang T, Peleli M, Zollbrecht C, Giulietti A, Terrando N, Lundberg JO, et al. Inorganic nitrite attenuates NADPH oxidase-derived superoxide generation in activated macrophages via a nitric oxide-dependent mechanism. Free Radic Biol Med 2015; 83:159-166.

36. Gonzalez-Perilli L, Alvarez MN, Prolo C, Radi R, Rubbo H, Trostchansky A. Nitroarachidonic acid prevents NADPH oxidase assembly and superoxide radical production in activated macrophages. Free Radic Biol Med 2013; 58:126-133.

37. Liu YL, Liu YJ, Liu Y, Li XS, Liu SH, Pan YG, et al. Hydroxysafflor yellow A ameliorates lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury in mice via modulating toll-like receptor 4 signaling pathways. Int Immunopharmacol 2014; 23:649-657.

38. Yang Z, Yang J, Jia Y, Tian Y, Wen A. Pharmacokinetic properties of hydroxysafflor yellow A in healthy Chinese female volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol 2009; 124:635-638.

39. Siniscalchi A, Gallelli L, Malferrari G, Pirritano D, Serra R, Santangelo E, et al. Cerebral stroke injury: the role of cytokines and brain inflammation. J Basic  Clin Physiol Pharmacol 2014; 25:131-137.

40. Lambertsen KL, Biber K, Finsen B. Inflammatory cytokines in experimental and human stroke. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 2012; 32:1677-1698.

41. Cacci E, Claasen JH, Kokaia Z. Microglia-derived tumor necrosis factor-alpha exaggerates death of newborn hippocampal progenitor cells in vitro. J Neurosci Res 2005; 80:789-797.

42. Kogo J, Takeba Y, Kumai T, Kitaoka Y, Matsumoto N, Ueno S, et al. Involvement of TNF-alpha in glutamate-induced apoptosis in a differentiated neuronal cell line. Brain Res 2006; 1122:201-208.

43. Liu T, Clark RK, McDonnell PC, Young PR, White RF, Barone FC, et al. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha expression in ischemic neurons. Stroke 1994; 25:1481-1488.

44. Lavine SD, Hofman FM, Zlokovic BV. Circulating antibody against tumor necrosis factor-alpha protects rat brain from reperfusion injury. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 1998; 18:52-58.

45. Clausen BH, Lambertsen KL, Babcock AA, Holm TH, Dagnaes-Hansen F, Finsen B. Interleukin-1beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha are expressed by different subsets of microglia and macrophages after ischemic stroke in mice. J Neuroinflamm 2008; 5:46.

46. Clausen BH, Lambertsen KL, Meldgaard M,  Finsen B. A quantitative in situ hybridization and 
polymerase chain reaction study of microglial-macrophage expression of interleukin-1beta mRNA following permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion in mice. Neuroscience 2005; 132:879-892.

47. Chodobski A, Zink BJ, Szmydynger-Chodobska J. Blood-brain barrier pathophysiology in traumatic brain injury. Transl Stroke Res 2011; 2:492-516.