Blood-brain barrier and innate immunity in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease

Goran Šimić, Ena Španić, Lea Langer Horvat, Patrick R. Hof

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is only partly understood. This is the probable reason why significant efforts to treat or prevent AD have been unsuccessful. In fact, as of April 2019, there have been 2094 studies registered for AD on the U.S. National Library of Science web page, of which only a few are still ongoing. In AD, abnormal accumulation of amyloid and tau proteins in the brain are thought to begin 10–20 years before the onset of overt symptoms, suggesting that interventions designed to prevent pathological amyloid and tau accumulation may be more effective than attempting to reverse a pathology once it is established. However, to be successful, such early interventions need to be selectively administered to individuals who will likely develop the disease long before the symptoms occur. Therefore, it is critical to identify early biomarkers that are strongly predictive of AD. Currently, patients are diagnosed on the basis of a variety of clinical scales, neuropsychological tests, imaging and laboratory modalities, but definitive diagnosis can be made only by postmortem assessment of underlying neuropathology. People suffering from AD thus may be misdiagnosed clinically with other primary causes of dementia, and vice versa, thereby also reducing the power of clinical trials. The amyloid cascade hypothesis fits well for the familial cases of AD with known mutations, but is not sufficient to explain sporadic, late-onset AD (LOAD) that accounts for over 95% of all cases. Since the earliest descriptions of AD there have been neuropathological features described other than amyloid plaques (AP) and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT), most notably gliosis and neuroinflammation. However, it is only recently that genetic and experimental studies have implicated microglial dysfunction as a causal factor for AD, as opposed to a merely biological response of its accumulation around AP. Additionally, many studies have suggested the importance of changes in blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability in the pathogenesis of AD. Here we suggest how these less investigated aspects of the disease that have gained increased attention in recent years may contribute mechanistically to the development of lesions and symptoms of AD.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMolecular Biology of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Subtitle of host publicationVisions for the Future, Part A
EditorsDavid B. Teplow
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages47
ISBN (Print)9780128178744
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameProgress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science
ISSN (Print)1877-1173
ISSN (Electronic)1878-0814


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid β
  • Astrocytes
  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Innate immunity
  • Microglia
  • Monocytes
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Tau proteins


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