Send to

Choose Destination
Front Immunol. 2019 Mar 4;10:362. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00362. eCollection 2019.

Therapeutic Inhibition of the Complement System in Diseases of the Central Nervous System.

Author information

UK Dementia Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.
Division of Infection and Immunity, School of Medicine, Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


The complement system plays critical roles in development, homeostasis, and regeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) throughout life; however, complement dysregulation in the CNS can lead to damage and disease. Complement proteins, regulators, and receptors are widely expressed throughout the CNS and, in many cases, are upregulated in disease. Genetic and epidemiological studies, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma biomarker measurements and pathological analysis of post-mortem tissues have all implicated complement in multiple CNS diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), neuromyelitis optica (NMO), neurotrauma, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and Huntington's disease (HD). Given this body of evidence implicating complement in diverse brain diseases, manipulating complement in the brain is an attractive prospect; however, the blood-brain barrier (BBB), critical to protect the brain from potentially harmful agents in the circulation, is also impermeable to current complement-targeting therapeutics, making drug design much more challenging. For example, antibody therapeutics administered systemically are essentially excluded from the brain. Recent protocols have utilized "Trojan horse" techniques to transport therapeutics across the BBB or used osmotic shock or ultrasound to temporarily disrupt the BBB. Most research to date exploring the impact of complement inhibition on CNS diseases has been in animal models, and some of these studies have generated convincing data; for example, in models of MS, NMO, and stroke. There have been a few recent clinical trials of available anti-complement drugs in CNS diseases associated with BBB impairment, for example the use of the anti-C5 monoclonal antibody (mAb) eculizumab in NMO, but for most CNS diseases there have been no human trials of anti-complement therapies. Here we will review the evidence implicating complement in diverse CNS disorders, from acute, such as traumatic brain or spine injury, to chronic, including demyelinating, neuroinflammatory, and neurodegenerative diseases. We will discuss the particular problems of drug access into the CNS and explore ways in which anti-complement therapies might be tailored for CNS disease.


CNS; complement; injury; neurodegeneration; therapeutics

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Frontiers Media SA Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center