The blood–spinal cord barrier: Morphology and Clinical Implications



The blood–spinal cord barrier (BSCB) is the functional equivalent of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) in the sense of providing a specialized microenvironment for the cellular constituents of the spinal cord. Even if intuitively the BSCB could be considered as the morphological extension of the BBB into the spinal cord, evidence suggests that this is not so. The BSCB shares the same principal building blocks with the BBB; nevertheless, it seems that morphological and functional differences may exist between them. Dysfunction of the BSCB plays a fundamental role in the etiology or progression of several pathological conditions of the spinal cord, such as spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and radiation-induced myelopathy. This review summarizes current knowledge of the morphology of the BSCB, the methodology of studying the BSCB, and the potential role of BSCB dysfunction in selected disorders of the spinal cord, and finally summarizes therapeutic approaches to the BSCB. Ann Neurol 2011;