Spinal cord injury (SCI) induces dynamic changes of the blood-spinal cord barrier and even the more distant blood-brain barrier. Besides an immediate increase of paracellular permeability resulting from the direct impact of the injury, the transport systems for selective cytokines undergo regulatory changes. Since many of the transported molecules play essential roles in neuroregeneration, we propose that this altered peripheral tissue / CNS interaction benefits remodeling of the spinal cord and functional recovery after SCI. This review examines the transport of cytokines and neurotrophic factors into the spinal cord, emphasizing the upregulation of two cytokines – tumor necrosis factor α (TNF) and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) - during the course of SCI. The increased transport of TNF and LIF after SCI remains saturable and does not coincide with generalized BBB disruption, highlighting a pivotal regulatory role for the bloodspinal cord barrier.
Keywords: Spinal cord injury, blood-brain barrier, cytokines, neurotrophins, TNF, LIF
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