Ischemic stroke, caused by obstruction of blood flow to the brain, would initiate microglia activation which contributes to neuronal damage. Therefore, inhibition of microglia-mediated neuroinflammation could be a therapeutic strategy for ischemic stroke. This study was aimed to elucidate the anti-inflammatory effects of alpha-lipoic acid and etanercept given either singly or in combination in rats subjected to middle cerebral artery occlusion. Both α-lipoic acid and etanercept markedly reduced cerebral infarct, blood-brain barrier disruption, and neurological motor deficits with the former drug being more effective with the dosage used. Furthermore, when used in combination, the reduction was more substantial. Remarkably, a greater diminution in the serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha as well as the brain levels of microglial activation (e.g., microgliosis, amoeboid microglia, and microglial overexpression of tumor necrosis factor-α) was observed with the combined drug treatment as compared to the drugs given separately. We conclude that inhibition of peripheral tumor necrosis factor-alpha as well as downregulation of brain microglial activation by alpha-lipoic acid or etanercept protect rat brain against ischemic stroke. Moreover, when both drugs were used in combination, the stroke recovery was promoted more extensively.
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