Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Field of Study

Biomedical Sciences


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Robert T. Mallet

Second Advisor

Albert H. Olivencia-Yurvati

Third Advisor

Peter B. Raven


Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the United States and Western Europe. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the only means of sustaining the victim until application of defibrillatory countershocks. Although it has been over 50 years since its advent, CPR remains a work in progress. Many initially resuscitated victims later die from the damage sustained from ischemia-reperfusion, and treatments to combat the extensive ischemia-reperfusion injury sustained during cardiac arrest-resuscitation remain elusive. The major mechanism of injury underlying ischemia-reperfusion is the intense overproduction of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) that accumulate during reperfusion and compromise normal cell function. RONS formed during resuscitation trigger lipid peroxidation, disable enzymes vital for cell metabolism and survival and, ultimately, induce cell death within affected organs. In order to prevent extensive damage to the central nervous system culminating in permanent neurocognitive disability and death, prospective treatments must possess robust antioxidant properties, traverse the blood-brain barrier between the cerebral circulation and brain parenchyma, and be non-toxic at effective doses.

Pyruvate is a natural intermediary metabolite, energy-yielding substrate and antioxidant. Pyruvate neutralizes RONS, thereby dampening oxidative stress and preventing covalent oxidative modification of enzymes and lipid membranes, and generates ATP to support brain function. Pyruvate readily traverses the blood-brain barrier and is non-toxic over a wide range of doses, including those previously demonstrated to protect the heart during cardiopulmonary bypass and the brain during stroke, thereby supporting oxygen and fuel delivery to the recovering brain. Moreover, pyruvate has been shown to promote cardiac electromechanical and metabolic recovery following cardiac arrest and open-chest CPR.

This study tested whether infusion of pyruvate during, CPR and early recovery can decrease the biomarkers of oxidative stress after cardiac arrest. Isoflurane-anesthetized pigs were subjected to 6 min electrically-induced, untreated ventricular fibrillation, followed by 4 min closed-chest CPR, defibrillation and either 1 or 4 h recovery. Beginning at 5.5 min arrest, either sodium pyruvate or NaCl control were infused iv for the duration of CPR and for the first 60 min after recovery of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). Arterial blood was sampled pre-arrest and at 5, 15, 30, 60, 120, 180, and 240 min ROSC for analyses of blood gases and plasma constituents. At either 1 h (i.e. end of treatment infusion) or 4 h ROSC, a craniotomy was performed, the pig was euthanized, the brain was removed, and biopsies from hippocampus and cerebellum were snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen for biochemical analysis.

The first phase of this project tested the hypothesis that intravenous administration of sodium pyruvate during precordial compressions and the first 60 min ROSC restores hemodynamic, metabolic, and electrolyte homeostasis in a closed chest porcine model of cardiac arrest. Resuscitation with pyruvate sharply decreased the incidence of lethal pulseless electrical activity (PEA) following defibrillatory countershocks, and lowered the dosage of vasoconstrictor phenylephrine required to maintain systemic arterial pressure. Pyruvate also enhanced glucose clearance, elevated arterial bicarbonate, and raised arterial pH.

The second phase of this project tested the hypothesis that pyruvate prevents the decrease in activity of the brain’s antioxidant enzymes following cardiac arrest and hyperoxic (100% O2). Activities of glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase were decreased at 60 min ROSC vs. sham in both the hippocampus and cerebellum. Pyruvate partially preserved glutathione peroxidase activity at 1 h ROSC, but by 4 h, after 3 h of pyruvate clearance from the circulation, the enzyme’s activity fell to the same extent as in NaCl-infused pigs. Interestingly, the glutathione peroxidase/reductase activity fell sharply in non-arrested sham pigs between the time points corresponding to 1 and 4 h ROSC, suggesting that hyperoxia resulting from ventilation with 100% produced sufficient oxidative stress to inactivate the enzymes. Similarly, lactate dehydrogenase activity fell between 1 and 4 h ROSC in hippocampus and especially cerebellum. In sham pigs, lactate dehydrogenase activity decreased from the time points corresponding to 1 and 4 h ROSC, and pyruvate had no effect on lactate dehydrogenase in either region of the brain. Thus, cardiac arrest and hyperoxic ventilation disabled a critical antioxidant system in two ischemia-sensitive brain regions. Pyruvate afforded partial protection of these enzymes which waned after pyruvate cleared from the circulation.

We conclude that 1) Pyruvate infusion during cardiac arrest, CPR and early recovery promotes conversion from ventricular fibrillation to a productive sinus rhythm instead of lethal PEA; 2) Pyruvate hastened glucose clearance, a prognostic measure used clinically; 3) Pyruvate elevated the arterial bicarbonate concentration and raised arterial pH, which combats the acidemia normally observed following ROSC; 4) Cardiac arrest-resuscitation and hyperoxic ventilation disabled the glutathione peroxidase-reductase system, a critical component of the brain’s antioxidant defenses, in hippocampus and cerebellum; and 5) Pyruvate delayed oxidative inactivation of glutathione peroxidase in the cerebellum, but this effect subsided as pyruvate elevated. These investigations demonstrate the therapeutic effects and limitations of pyruvate as a resuscitative treatment to hasten electrocardiographic and metabolic recovery post cardiac arrest.


Cherry, Brandon H., Intravenous pyruvate to protect heart and brain during closed-chest resuscitation and recovery from cardiac arrest. Doctor of Philosophy (Biomedical Sciences), Aug 2014.