The role of the immune system in central nervous system plasticity after acute injury.


Acute brain injuries cause rapid cell death that activates bidirectional crosstalk between the injured brain and the immune system. In the acute phase, the damaged CNS activates resident and circulating immune cells via the local and systemic release of soluble mediators. This early immune activation is necessary to confine the injured tissue and foster the clearance of cellular debris, thus bringing the inflammatory reaction to a close. In the chronic phase, a sustained immune activation has been described in many CNS disorders, and the degree of this prolonged response has variable effects on spontaneous brain regenerative processes. The challenge for treating acute CNS damage is to understand how to optimally engage and modify these immune responses, thus providing new strategies that will compensate for tissue lost to injury. Herein we have reviewed the available information regarding the role and function of the innate and adaptive immune responses in influencing CNS plasticity during the acute and chronic phases of after injury. We have examined how CNS damage evolves along the activation of main cellular and molecular pathways that are associated with intrinsic repair, neuronal functional plasticity and facilitation of tissue reorganization.