The blood-brain barrier and its role in immune privilege in the central nervous system

Joel S Pachter, Helga E de Vries, Zsuzsa Fabry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


The blood-brain barrier (BBB) provides both anatomical and physiological protection for the central nervous system (CNS), strictly regulating the entry of many substances and blood borne cells into the nervous tissue. Increased understanding of how the unique microenvironment in the CNS influences the BBB is crucial for developing novel therapeutic approaches to CNS diseases. In this review, we discuss those characteristics of the BBB that play an important role in maintaining immune privilege in the CNS, as well as factors that regulate immune cell invasion through the BBB and thereby modulate immune responses in the nervous tissue. In general, immune cell invasion across the BBB is highly restricted and carefully regulated. A florid invasion of activated white blood cells can create a predominantly proinflammatory local environment in the CNS, leading to immune-mediated diseases of the nervous tissue. Recent developments in cellular and molecular biological methods have allowed closer analysis of BBB function, and led to an improved understanding of the active role of the BBB in immune-mediated diseases of the CNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-604
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003

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