Blood-brain barrier breakdown in acute and chronic cerebrovascular disease. Academic Article Review uri icon


  • Disruptions of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and edema formation both play key roles in the development of neurological dysfunction in acute and chronic cerebral ischemia. Animal studies have revealed the molecular cascades that are initiated with hypoxia/ischemia in the cells forming the neurovascular unit and that contribute to cell death. Matrix metalloproteinases cause reversible degradation of tight junction proteins early after the onset of ischemia, and a delayed secondary opening during a neuroinflammatory response occurring from 24 to 72 hours after. Cyclooxygenases are important in the delayed opening as the neuroinflammatory response progresses. An early opening of the BBB within the 3-hour therapeutic window for tissue-type plasminogen activator can allow it to enter the brain and increase the risk of hemorrhage. Chronic hypoxic hypoperfusion opens the BBB, which contributes to the cognitive changes seen with lacunar strokes and white matter injury in subcortical ischemic vascular disease. This review will describe the molecular and cellular events associated with BBB disruption and potential therapies directed toward restoring the integrity of the neurovascular unit.

publication date

  • 2011