CNS damage can increase the susceptibility of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to changes induced by systemic inflammation. The aim of this study is to better understand BBB permeability in patients with MS and to examine whether compromised BBB integrity in some of these patients is associated with CNS damage and systemic inflammation.
Routine CSF measurements of 121 patients with MS were analyzed including number and type of infiltrating cells, total protein, lactate, and oligoclonal bands, as well as intrathecal production of immunoglobulins and CSF/serum quotients for albumin, immunoglobulins, and glucose. In addition, in a subcohort of these patients, we performed ex vivo immunophenotyping of CSF-infiltrating and paired circulating lymphocytes using a panel of 13 monoclonal antibodies, we quantified intrathecal neurofilament light chain (NF-L) and chitinase 3-like 1 (CHI3L1), and we performed intrathecal lipidomic analysis.
Patients with MS with abnormal high levels of albumin in the CSF showed a distinct CSF cell infiltrate and markers of CNS damage such as increased intrathecal levels of NF-L and CHI3L1 as well as a distinct CSF lipidomic profile. In addition, these patients showed higher numbers of circulating proinflammatory Th1 and Th1* cells compatible with systemic inflammation. Of interest, the abnormally high levels of albumin in the CSF of those patients were preserved over time.
Our results support the hypothesis that CNS damage may increase BBB vulnerability to systemic inflammation in a subset of patients and thus contribute to disease heterogeneity.