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Autoimmunity. 2007 Mar;40(2):148-60.

The blood-brain-barrier in multiple sclerosis: functional roles and therapeutic targeting.

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Department of Neurology, Institute for Neurological Research Dr. Raúl Carrea, Montañeses 2325 (1428), Buenos Aires, Argentina.


In most regions of the central nervous system (CNS), the composition of the neuronal microenvironment is maintained by virtue of particular blood-brain-barrier (BBB) characteristics, to which vascular endothelial cells (ECs) contribute an important role. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the CNS, characterized at tissue level by multifocal perivascular infiltrates, predominantly of lymphocytes and macrophages. Thus, lymphocyte recruitment into the brain across ECs of the BBB represents a critical event in disease pathogenesis, which is highly restricted and carefully regulated. In recent years, different investigations have identified the crucial components involved in leukocyte migration, providing new insights into mechanisms modulating neuroinflammatory reactions. In this review, several topics relating to these events are discussed, namely: (1) cellular and molecular characteristics of the BBB regulating permeability, as well as signals inducing EC differentiation in the brain and specific cell properties; (2) pathogenic mechanisms guiding the migration of different leukocyte populations through the BBB in MS; and (3) current knowledge on how different MS therapies targeting leukocytes migration across the BBB function. Furthermore, because the BBB has proven to be an important retaining wall preventing drug passage into the CNS, novel strategies directed at successful delivery of large molecules for effective treatment of various inflammatory conditions of the brain, both currently available or still under development, are discussed.

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