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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2015, Article ID 358263, 10 pages
Review Article

A Neurologist’s Guide to TNF Biology and to the Principles behind the Therapeutic Removal of Excess TNF in Disease

1Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Acton, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia
2Neurodegeneration Research Group, Garvan Institute, 384 Victoria Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia

Received 21 April 2015; Accepted 21 May 2015

Academic Editor: Ariel Martinez

Copyright © 2015 Ian A. Clark and Bryce Vissel. 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.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is an ancient and widespread cytokine required in small amounts for much physiological function. Higher concentrations are central to innate immunity, but if unchecked this cytokine orchestrates much chronic and acute disease, both infectious and noninfectious. While being a major proinflammatory cytokine, it also controls homeostasis and plasticity in physiological circumstances. For the last decade or so these principles have been shown to apply to the central nervous system as well as the rest of the body. Nevertheless, whereas this approach has been a major success in treating noncerebral disease, its investigation and potential widespread adoption in chronic neurological conditions has inexplicably stalled since the first open trial almost a decade ago. While neuroscience is closely involved with this approach, clinical neurology appears to be reticent in engaging with what it offers patients. Unfortunately, the basic biology of TNF and its relevance to disease is largely outside the traditions of neurology. The purpose of this review is to facilitate lowering communication barriers between the traditional anatomically based medical specialties through recognition of shared disease mechanisms and thus advance the prospects of a large group of patients with neurodegenerative conditions for whom at present little can be done.