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The environment of the brain is controlled by a sophisticated endothelial barrier that prevents the free entry of solutes from the blood. It is commonly assumed that this blood-brain barrier (BBB) also prevents the entry of leukocytes into the central nervous system. However, recent evidence in animal models shows that this is not the case, and leukocytes can cross an intact BBB during health and disease. Indeed, in many neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, prion diseases and AIDS-related dementia, leukocytes enter the brain parenchyma without concomitant BBB breakdown. Current research is concentrating on factors that control the integrity of the BBB and the mechanisms that leukocytes use to enter the brain.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Med Today

Publication Date





335 - 341


Animals, Blood-Brain Barrier, Disease Models, Animal, Humans, Inflammation, Leukocytes, Mice, Nervous System Diseases, Rats