The role of markers of inflammation in traumatic brain injury

Thomas Woodcock, Maria Cristina Morganti-Kossmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    392 Citations (Scopus)
    134 Downloads (Pure)


    Within minutes of a traumatic impact, a robust inflammatory response is elicited in the injured brain. The complexity of this post-traumatic squeal involves a cellular component, comprising the activation of resident glial cells, microglia, and astrocytes, and the infiltration of blood leukocytes. The second component regards the secretion immune mediators, which can be divided into the following sub-groups: the archetypal pro-inflammatory cytokines (Interleukin-1, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Interleukin-6), the anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-4, Interleukin-10, and TGF-beta), and the chemotactic cytokines or chemokines, which specifically drive the accumulation of parenchymal and peripheral immune cells in the injured brain region. Such mechanisms have been demonstrated in animal models, mostly in rodents, as well as in human brain. Whilst the humoral immune response is particularly pronounced in the acute phase following Traumatic brain injury (TBI), the activation of glial cells seems to be a rather prolonged effect lasting for several months. The complex interaction of cytokines and cell types installs a network of events, which subsequently intersect with adjacent pathological cascades including oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, or reparative events including angiogenesis, scarring, and neurogenesis. It is well accepted that neuroinflammation is responsible of beneficial and detrimental effects, contributing to secondary brain damage but also facilitating neurorepair. Although such mediators are clear markers of immune activation, to what extent cytokines can be defined as diagnostic factors reflecting brain injury or as predictors of long term outcome needs to be further substantiated. In clinical studies some groups reported a proportional cytokine production in either the cerebrospinal fluid or intraparenchymal tissue with initial brain damage, mortality, or poor outcome scores. However, the validity of cytokines as biomarkers is not broadly accepted. This review article will discuss the evidence from both clinical and laboratory studies exploring the validity of immune markers as a correlate to classification and outcome following TBI.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberArticle 18
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    JournalFrontiers in Neurology
    Volume4 MAR
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Biomarkers
    • Chemokines
    • Cytokines
    • Inflammation
    • Traumatic brain injury


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