There are currently no effective therapies for treating pressure-induced deep tissue injury. This study tested the efficacy of pharmacological inhibition of caspase in preventing muscle damage following sustained moderate compression. Adult Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to prolonged moderate compression. Static pressure of 100 mmHg compression was applied to an area of 1.5 cm 2 in the tibialis region of the right limb of the rats for 6 h each day for two consecutive days. The left uncompressed limb served as intra-animal control. Rats were randomized to receive either vehicle (DMSO) as control treatment (n= 8) or 6 mg kg -1 of caspase inhibitor (z-VAD-fmk; n= 8) prior to the 6 h compression on the two consecutive days. Muscle tissues directly underneath the compression region of the compressed limb and the same region of control limb were harvested after the compression procedure. Histological examination and biochemical/molecular measurement of apoptosis and autophagy were performed. Caspase inhibition was effective in alleviating the compression-induced pathohistology of muscle. The increases in caspase-3 protease activity, TUNEL index, apoptotic DNA fragmentation and pro-apoptotic factors (Bax, p53 and EndoG) and the decreases in anti-apoptotic factors (XIAP and HSP70) observed in compressed muscle of DMSO-treated animals were not found in animals treated with caspase inhibitor. The mRNA content of autophagic factors (Beclin-1, Atg5 and Atg12) and the protein content of LC3, FoxO3 and phospho-FoxO3 that were down-regulated in compressed muscle of DMSO-treated animals were all maintained at their basal level in the caspase inhibitor treated animals. Our data provide evidence that caspase inhibition attenuates compression-induced muscle apoptosis and maintains the basal autophagy level. These findings demonstrate that pharmacological inhibition of caspase/apoptosis is effective in alleviating muscle damage as induced by prolonged compression.
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