The blood-spinal cord barrier: morphology and clinical implications

Ann Neurol. 2011 Aug;70(2):194-206. doi: 10.1002/ana.22421. Epub 2011 Jun 14.


The blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) is the functional equivalent of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in the sense of providing a specialized microenvironment for the cellular constituents of the spinal cord. Even if intuitively the BSCB could be considered as the morphological extension of the BBB into the spinal cord, evidence suggests that this is not so. The BSCB shares the same principal building blocks with the BBB; nevertheless, it seems that morphological and functional differences may exist between them. Dysfunction of the BSCB plays a fundamental role in the etiology or progression of several pathological conditions of the spinal cord, such as spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and radiation-induced myelopathy. This review summarizes current knowledge of the morphology of the BSCB, the methodology of studying the BSCB, and the potential role of BSCB dysfunction in selected disorders of the spinal cord, and finally summarizes therapeutic approaches to the BSCB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / anatomy & histology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Diseases / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy