Administration of tetrahydrobiopterin improves the microcirculation and outcome in an ovine model of septic shock

Xinrong He, Fuhong Su, Dimitrios Velissaris, Diamantino Ribeiro Salgado, Dalton de Souza Barros, Sophie Lorent, Fabio Silvio Taccone, Jean-Louis Vincent, Daniel De Backer
Critical Care Medicine 2012, 40 (10): 2833-40

OBJECTIVE: Supplementation with tetrahydrobiopterin, a nitric oxide synthase cofactor, may reduce microvascular endothelial dysfunction in severe sepsis. We studied whether tetrahydrobiopterin administration exerts beneficial effects in an ovine septic shock model.

DESIGN: Randomized animal study.

SETTING: University hospital animal research laboratory.

SUBJECTS: Fourteen adult female sheep.

INTERVENTIONS: Fecal peritonitis was induced, and the sheep were randomized to receive tetrahydrobiopterin (n=7), given intravenously as 20 mg/kg boluses at 4 and 12 hrs after sepsis induction, or placebo (n=7). All animals were fluid resuscitated. The experiment was continued until death or for a maximum of 30 hrs.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: In addition to standard hemodynamic assessment, the sublingual microcirculation was evaluated using sidestream dark-field videomicroscopy. The first bolus of tetrahydrobiopterin blunted the increase in heart rate and cardiac index seen in the control group without affecting mean arterial pressure, and the second bolus of tetrahydrobiopterin prevented the decreases in cardiac index and mean arterial pressure. The reduction in mixed venous blood oxygen saturation and the increase in blood lactate seen in the control group were also delayed. Tetrahydrobiopterin significantly attenuated the deterioration in perfused small vessel proportion and density, microvascular flow index, and the increase in microvascular heterogeneity observed in the control group. Tetrahydrobiopterin was associated with better preserved lung compliance and PaO2/FIO2 ratio, which were associated with a lower lung wet/dry weight ratio at the end of the study. Median survival time was significantly prolonged in the tetrahydrobiopterin group (25.0 vs. 17.8 hrs, p<.01).

CONCLUSION: In this clinically relevant model of sepsis, tetrahydrobiopterin supplementation attenuated the impairment in sublingual microvascular perfusion and permeability, which was accompanied by better preserved gas exchange, renal flow and urine output, and prolonged survival.

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