Neuroinflammation after SCI: Current Insights and Therapeutic Potential of Intravenous Immunoglobulin
Ellen R Gillespie, Marc J Ruitenberg
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) elicits a complex cascade of cellular and molecular inflammatory events. Although certain aspects of the inflammatory response are essential to wound healing and repair, post-SCI inflammation is, on balance, thought to be detrimental to recovery by causing "bystander damage" and the spread of pathology into spared but vulnerable regions of the spinal cord. Much of the research to date has therefore focused on understanding the inflammatory drivers of secondary tissue loss after SCI, to define therapeutic targets and positively modulate this response. Numerous experimental studies have demonstrated that modulation of the inflammatory response to SCI can indeed lead to significant neuroprotection and improved recovery. However, it is now also recognized that broadscale immunosuppression is not necessarily beneficial and may even carry the risk of contributing to the development of serious adverse events. Immune modulation rather than suppression is therefore now considered a more promising approach to target harmful post-traumatic inflammation following a major neurotraumatic event such as SCI. One promising immunomodulatory agent is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), a plasma product that contains mostly immunoglobulin G (IgG) from thousands of healthy donors. IVIG is currently already widely used to treat a range of autoimmune diseases, but recent studies have found that it also holds great promise for treating acute neurological conditions, including SCI. This review provides an overview of the inflammatory response to SCI, immunomodulatory approaches that are currently in clinical trials, proposed mechanisms of action for IVIG therapy, and the putative relevance of these in the context of neurotraumatic events.