BACKGROUND: Preeclampsia is characterized by an excessive inflammatory response. Recent studies have shown that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has anti-inflammatory properties in vivo. This study aims to investigate whether VNS is safe for use during pregnancy and to explore the therapeutic potential and underlying mechanisms of VNS in PE.
METHODS: Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly chosen to receive N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME)-containing water (preeclampsia-like mouse model) or saline (normal pregnancy control) daily at gestational days 14.5-20.5. VNS and the α7nAChR antagonist methyllycaconitine citrate (MLA, 1 mg/kg/d) were given daily at the same time.
RESULTS: VNS decreased the high systolic blood pressure and urinary protein observed in the PE rats. In addition, VNS mitigated abnormal pregnancy outcomes. Moreover, VNS alleviated the inflammatory response by decreasing the levels of inflammatory cytokines. VNS significantly increased the expression of α7nAChR and attenuated the activation of NF-κB p65 in the placenta.
DISCUSSION: Our findings indicate that maternal VNS treatment is safe during pregnancy and has a protective effect in a pregnant rat model of preeclampsia induced by L-NAME.