Neuroinflammation is a key event in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and characterizes metabolic pathologies like obesity and type 2 diabetes (T2D). Growing evidence in humans shows that obesity increases the risk of developing AD by threefold. Hippocampal neuroinflammation in rodents correlates with poor memory performance, suggesting that it contributes to cognitive decline. Here we propose that reducing obesity/T2D-driven neuroinflammation may prevent the progression of cognitive decline associated with AD-like neurodegenerative states. Near-infrared light (NIR) has attracted increasing attention as it was shown to improve learning and memory in both humans and animal models. We previously reported that transcranial NIR delivery reduced amyloid beta and Tau pathology and improved memory function in mouse models of AD. Here, we report the effects of NIR in preventing obesity-induced neuroinflammation in a diet-induced obese mouse model. Five-week-old wild-type mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 13 weeks to induce obesity prior to transcranial delivery of NIR for 4 weeks during 90-s sessions given 5 days a week. After sacrifice, brain slices were subjected to free-floating immunofluorescence for microglia and astrocyte markers to evaluate glial activation and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to evaluate expression levels of inflammatory cytokines and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The hippocampal and cortical regions of the HFD group had increased expression of the activated microglial marker CD68 and the astrocytic marker glial fibrillary acidic protein. NIR-treated HFD groups showed decreased levels of these markers. PCR revealed that hippocampal tissue from the HFD group had increased levels of pro-inflammatory interleukin (IL)-1β and tumor necrosis factor-α. Interestingly, the same samples showed increased levels of the anti-inflammatory IL-10. All these changes were attenuated by NIR treatment. Lastly, hippocampal levels of the neurotrophic factor BDNF were increased in NIR-treated HFD mice, compared to untreated HFD mice. The marked reductions in glial activation and pro-inflammatory cytokines along with elevated BDNF provide insights into how NIR could reduce neuroinflammation. These results support the use of NIR as a potential non-invasive and preventive therapeutic approach against chronic obesity-induced deficits that are known to occur with AD neuropathology.
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