Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 24, Issue 1–3, pp 169–181 | Cite as

The duality of the inflammatory response to traumatic brain injury

  • Philipp M. Lenzlinger
  • Maria-Cristina Morganti-Kossmann
  • Helmut L. Laurer
  • Tracy K. McIntoshEmail author


One and a half to two million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the US each year, of which approx 70,000–90,000 will suffer from long-term disability with dramatic impacts on their own and their families’ lives and enormous socio-economic costs. Brain damage following traumatic injury is a result of direct (immediate mechanical disruption of brain tissue, or primary injury) and indirect (secondary or delayed) mechanisms. These secondary mechanisms involve the initiation of an acute inflammatory response, including breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), edema formation and swelling, infiltration of peripheral blood cells and activation of resident immunocompetent cells, as well as the intrathecal release of numerous immune mediators such as interleukins and chemotactic factors. An overview over the inflammatory response to trauma as observed in clinical and in experimental TBI is presented in this review. The possibly harmful/beneficial sequelae of post-traumatic inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) are discussed using three model mediators of inflammation in the brain, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). While the former two may act as important mediators for the initiation and the support of post-traumatic inflammation, thus causing additional cell death and neurologic dysfunction, they may also pave the way for reparative processes. TGF-β, on the other hand, is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, which may also have some deleterious long-term effects in the injured brain. The implications of this duality of the post-traumatic inflammatory response for the treatment of brain-injured patients using anti-inflammatory strategies are discussed.

Index Entries

Traumatic brain injury inflammation neurons astrocytes microglia blood brain barrier cytokines interleukin-6 transforming growth factor-β tumor necrosis factor-α 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philipp M. Lenzlinger
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria-Cristina Morganti-Kossmann
    • 2
  • Helmut L. Laurer
    • 1
  • Tracy K. McIntosh
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryUniversity of Pennsylvania, and Veterans Administration Medical CenterPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Trauma SurgeryUniversity HospitalZurichSwitzerland

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