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J Neurochem. 2009 Oct;111(2):291-314. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.06319.x. Epub 2009 Jul 31.

The blood-brain barrier in neurodegenerative disease: a rhetorical perspective.

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Department of Pharmacology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


Recent studies suggest that the function of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is not static under normal physiologic conditions and is likely altered in neurodegenerative disease. Prevailing thinking about CNS function, and neurodegenerative disease in particular, is neurocentric excluding the impact of factors outside the CNS. This review challenges this perspective and discusses recent reports suggesting the involvement of peripheral factors including toxins and elements of adaptive immunity that may not only play a role in pathogenesis, but also progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Central to this view is neuroinflammation. Several studies indicate that the neuroinflammatory changes that accompany neurodegeneration affect the BBB or its function by altering transport systems, enhancing immune cell entry, or influencing the BBB's role as a signaling interface. Such changes impair the BBB's normal homeostatic function and affect neural activity. Moreover, recent studies reveal that alterations in BBB and its transporters affect the entry of drugs used to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Incorporating BBB compromise and dysfunction into our view of neurodegenerative disease leads to the inclusion of peripheral mediators in its pathogenesis and progression. In addition, this changing view of the BBB raises interesting new therapeutic possibilities for drug delivery as well as treatment strategies designed to reinstate normal barrier function.

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