Immune responses in stroke: how the immune system contributes to damage and healing after stroke and how this knowledge could be translated to better cures?

Immunology. 2018 Jul;154(3):363-376. doi: 10.1111/imm.12918. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. The long-standing dogma that stroke is exclusively a vascular disease has been questioned by extensive clinical findings of immune factors that are associated mostly with inflammation after stroke. These have been confirmed in preclinical studies using experimental animal models. It is now accepted that inflammation and immune mediators are critical in acute and long-term neuronal tissue damage and healing following thrombotic and ischaemic stroke. Despite mounting information delineating the role of the immune system in stroke, the mechanisms of how inflammatory cells and their mediators are involved in stroke-induced neuroinflammation are still not fully understood. Currently, there is no available treatment for targeting the acute immune response that develops in the brain during cerebral ischaemia. No new treatment has been introduced to stroke therapy since the discovery of tissue plasminogen activator therapy in 1996. Here, we review current knowledge of the immunity of stroke and identify critical gaps that hinder current therapies. We will discuss advances in the understanding of the complex innate and adaptive immune responses in stroke; mechanisms of immune cell-mediated and factor-mediated vascular and tissue injury; immunity-induced tissue repair; and the importance of modulating immunity in stroke.

Keywords: cytokines; inflammation; neuroinflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / immunology
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immunity*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Microglia / immunology
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid Cells / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stroke / immunology*
  • Stroke / metabolism
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Wound Healing / immunology