Spinal Cord Injury Scarring and Inflammation: Therapies Targeting Glial and Inflammatory Responses

Neurotherapeutics. 2018 Jul;15(3):541-553. doi: 10.1007/s13311-018-0631-6.


Deficits in neuronal function are a hallmark of spinal cord injury (SCI) and therapeutic efforts are often focused on central nervous system (CNS) axon regeneration. However, secondary injury responses by astrocytes, microglia, pericytes, endothelial cells, Schwann cells, fibroblasts, meningeal cells, and other glia not only potentiate SCI damage but also facilitate endogenous repair. Due to their profound impact on the progression of SCI, glial cells and modification of the glial scar are focuses of SCI therapeutic research. Within and around the glial scar, cells deposit extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins that affect axon growth such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs), laminin, collagen, and fibronectin. This dense deposition of material, i.e., the fibrotic scar, is another barrier to endogenous repair and is a target of SCI therapies. Infiltrating neutrophils and monocytes are recruited to the injury site through glial chemokine and cytokine release and subsequent upregulation of chemotactic cellular adhesion molecules and selectins on endothelial cells. These peripheral immune cells, along with endogenous microglia, drive a robust inflammatory response to injury with heterogeneous reparative and pathological properties and are targeted for therapeutic modification. Here, we review the role of glial and inflammatory cells after SCI and the therapeutic strategies that aim to replace, dampen, or alter their activity to modulate SCI scarring and inflammation and improve injury outcomes.

Keywords: Macrophage; azithromycin; chondroitinase ABC (chABC); glial limitans; human; traumatic brain injury..

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / therapy*
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*