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Infections in the developing brain: The role of the neuro-immune axis

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posted on 01.04.2022, 08:18 authored by John Kim, Clara Erice, Ursula K Rohlwink, Elizabeth W Tucker
Central nervous system (CNS) infections occur more commonly in young children than in adults and pose unique challenges in the developing brain. This review builds on the distinct vulnerabilities in children's peripheral immune system (outlined in part 1 of this review series) and focuses on how the developing brain responds once a CNS infection occurs. Although the protective blood-brain barrier (BBB) matures early, pathogens enter the CNS and initiate a localized innate immune response with release of cytokines and chemokines to recruit peripheral immune cells that contribute to the inflammatory cascade. This immune response is initiated by the resident brain cells, microglia and astrocytes, which are not only integral to fighting the infection but also have important roles during normal brain development. Additionally, cytokines and other immune mediators such as matrix metalloproteinases from neurons, glia, and endothelial cells not only play a role in BBB permeability and peripheral cell recruitment, but also in brain maturation. Consequently, these immune modulators and the activation of microglia and astrocytes during infection adversely impact normal neurodevelopment. Perturbations to normal brain development manifest as neurodevelopmental and neurocognitive impairments common among children who survive CNS infections and are often permanent. In part 2 of the review series, we broadly summarize the unique challenges CNS infections create in a developing brain and explore the interaction of regulators of neurodevelopment and CNS immune response as part of the neuro-immune axis.

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Medical Research Council (Grant ID: MR/P028071/1, Grant title: GCRF-Crick African Network)

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