Several review articles have been written on the role of systemic

Several review articles have been written on the role of systemic inflammation in the pathogenesis of HE.2-4 ac, anterior cingulate

cortex; ALF, acute liver failure; CNS, central nervous system; HE, hepatic encephalopathy; this website IL, interleukin; PET, positron emission tomography; SIRS, systemic inflammatory response syndrome; TNF-α, tumor necrosis factor α. In a landmark study of 16 patients with ALF due primarily to acetaminophen hepatotoxicity, Wright et al.5 measured proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), and IL-6 in blood sampled from an artery and a reverse jugular catheter. A significant correlation was observed between arterial cytokine levels and intracranial hypertension, and brain cytokine efflux was noted that was consistent with brain cytokine production. Working with an animal model of ALF, Jiang et al.6 demonstrated that alterations of a second type of glial cell, the microglia, accompany the onset of HE and brain edema in ALF. Microglia are bone marrow–derived myeloid lineage cells that represent approximately 15% of the total central nervous system (CNS) cell population. In the absence of an inflammatory stimulus, microglia remain quiescent and are involved in surveillance (the resting phenotype). However, in the presence of an inflammatory stimulus,

these cells acquire a reactive profile (the activated phenotype) that is aimed at the prevention Interleukin-2 receptor and control of CNS damage due to altered homeostasis resulting from a wide range of insults (from impending cerebral energy failure and metabolic lesions to cell death). In the study by Jiang et al., increases in the expression of the major histocompatibility complex class II antigen

marker CD11b/c (also called OX-42) were observed; this feature is characteristic of microglial activation (neuroinflammation; Fig. 1A). Microglial activation occurred early in the progression of ALF and was found to be increased further as encephalopathy and brain edema became manifest. Furthermore, the prevention of encephalopathy and brain edema by agents currently employed in clinical management, such as hypothermia and N-acetylcysteine, was accompanied by the prevention of microglial activation in all ALF animals, and this suggested that central mechanisms may contribute to the action of these treatments. Microglial activation occurs in human ALF, as shown by increased human leukocyte antigen DR (CR3/43) immunostaining (Fig. 2A). Neuroinflammation (microglial activation) has been described in a wide variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome–dementia complex.

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