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Disease Markers
Volume 22, Issue 4, Pages 235-244

Biomarkers Indicative of Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption in Multiple Sclerosis

Emmanuelle Waubant

UCSF MS Center, San Francisco, CA, USA

Received 10 November 2006; Accepted 10 November 2006

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption is one of the hallmarks of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is incompletely understood whether BBB disruption is the initial MS event leading to MS lesion formation or whether it is merely a consequence of cellular infiltration in the central nervous system (CNS). The presence of gadolinium enhancing (Gd+) lesions on serial brain MRI scans is frequently used to evaluate BBB disruption. The presence of Gd enhancement has therefore been used as a reference for most works evaluating promising biomarkers of BBB disruption that are reviewed here. These promising biomarkers include cytokines and chemokines, and their receptors, cell surface markers, and matrix metalloproteinases and their natural inhibitors. At this time, none of these markers have been shown as sensitive as the presence of Gd enhancement to reflect BBB disruption. However, MRI scanning is not only unpractical and expensive; it may also under represent the overall extent of BBB disruption. Developing new MS biomarkers that are sensitive and specific for BBB disruption could 1) improve the monitoring of disease activity; 2) improve the monitoring of response to MS therapies which target BBB disruption; and 3) advance our understanding of dynamic MS processes participating in BBB disruption.