The blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB), a physical barrier between the blood and spinal cord parenchyma, prevents the toxins, blood cells, and pathogens from entering the spinal cord and maintains a tightly controlled chemical balance in the spinal environment, which is necessary for proper neural function.

Triggering of inflammatory responses and disruption of blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) integrity are considered pivotal events in the traumatic spinal cord injury pathophysiology (TSCI). Yet, these events are poorly understood and described in humans. This study aims to describe inflammatory responses and BSCB integrity in human TSCI.

Methods: Fifteen TSCI patients and fifteen non-TSCI patients were prospectively recruited from Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark. Peripheral blood (PB) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were collected at median day 0 [IQR: 1], median day 9 [IQR: 2], and median day 148 [IQR: 49] after injury. PB and CSF were analyzed for immune cells by flow cytometry, cytokines by multiplex immunoassay, and BSCB integrity by IgG Index.

Results: Eleven TSCI patients completed follow-up. Results showed alterations in innate and adaptive immune cell counts over time. TSCI patients had significantly increased cytokine concentrations in CSF at the first and second follow-up, while only concentrations of interleukin (IL)-4, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α remained significantly increased at the third follow-up. In PB, TSCI patients had significantly increased IL-6, IL-8, and IL-10 concentrations and significantly decreased interferon-γ concentrations at the first follow-up. Results further showed increased IgG Index indicative of BSCB disruption in seven TSCI patients at the first follow-up, five TSCI patients at the second follow-up, and two patients at the third follow-up.

Results suggest that traumatic spinal cord injury mainly triggers innate inflammatory responses that resolves over time, although with some degree of non-resolving inflammation, particularly in CSF. Results cannot confirm blood-spinal cord barrier disruption in all traumatic spinal cord injury patients 1).

Wichmann TO, Kasch H, Dyrskog S, Høy K, Møller BK, Krog J, Hviid CVB, Hoffmann HJ, Rasmussen MM. The inflammatory response and blood-spinal cord barrier integrity in traumatic spinal cord injury: a prospective pilot study. Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2022 Oct 3. doi: 10.1007/s00701-022-05369-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36190569.
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