Ketamine, a dissociative, general anesthetic, blocks the excitation produced by activating one class of excitatory amino acid receptors, the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor in the rat. We have found that ketamine can protect hippocampal neurons in culture and slice from anoxia. When added to cultures immediately prior to anoxic exposure, ketamine prevented the neuronal destruction seen after a day of anoxia. Neurons appeared undamaged and had normal resting and action potentials. Adenosine triphosphate levels in ketamine-protected anoxic cultures were approximately two-thirds of normal controls. Ketamine also prevented the irreversible loss of the population spike seen in hippocampal slices after prolonged perfusion with anoxic buffer. These results suggest that ketamine may have therapeutic potential in preventing anoxic damage from stroke in man.
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