Reinventing the Penumbra — the Emerging Clockwork of a Multi-modal Mechanistic Paradigm
Walther J., Kirsch EM., Hellwig L., Schmerbeck SS., Holloway PM., Buchan AM., Mergenthaler P.
Abstract The concept of the ischemic penumbra was originally defined as the area around a necrotic stroke core and seen as the tissue at imminent risk of further damage. Today, the penumbra is generally considered as time-sensitive hypoperfused brain tissue with decreased oxygen and glucose availability, salvageable tissue as treated by intervention, and the potential target for neuroprotection in focal stroke. The original concept entailed electrical failure and potassium release but one short of neuronal cell death and was based on experimental stroke models, later confirmed in clinical imaging studies. However, even though the basic mechanisms have translated well, conferring brain protection, and improving neurological outcome after stroke based on the pathophysiological mechanisms in the penumbra has yet to be achieved. Recent findings shape the modern understanding of the penumbra revealing a plethora of molecular and cellular pathophysiological mechanisms. We now propose a new model of the penumbra, one which we hope will lay the foundation for future translational success. We focus on the availability of glucose, the brain’s central source of energy, and bioenergetic failure as core pathophysiological concepts. We discuss the relation of mitochondrial function in different cell types to bioenergetics and apoptotic cell death mechanisms, autophagy, and neuroinflammation, to glucose metabolism in what is a dynamic ischemic penumbra.