Neuroinflammation: Friend or Foe in Neurodegenerative Diseases?

🕒 Approximate reading time: 4 minutes

Neuroinflammation is a double-edged sword in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. While it is a necessary process for dealing with injury and infection, chronic neuroinflammation can exacerbate disease progression.

Understanding Neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation is the inflammatory response within the brain or spinal cord. This process is primarily mediated by microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS). In response to injury or infection, microglia become activated and release pro-inflammatory cytokines to combat the threat. However, if this response becomes chronic, it can contribute to the damage rather than protecting the brain.

Neuroinflammation as a Friend

When functioning properly, neuroinflammation plays a critical role in maintaining the health of the CNS. It helps in clearing pathogens, removing damaged cells, and promoting recovery and repair. Acute neuroinflammation can be seen as a protective response aimed at restoring homeostasis.

Neuroinflammation as a Foe

However, when neuroinflammation becomes chronic, it can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. Chronic neuroinflammation is implicated in several conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is characterised by sustained microglial activation and constant release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, leading to ongoing damage and neuronal death.

Balancing the Neuroinflammation Response

Understanding how to balance the beneficial and harmful effects of neuroinflammation is crucial for developing new therapeutic strategies. One approach could involve dampening chronic inflammation while preserving the acute inflammatory response necessary for repair and recovery.


Neuroinflammation is a complex process with both beneficial and harmful effects on the CNS. The challenge for researchers is to untangle this complexity and identify therapeutic strategies that can harness the protective aspects of neuroinflammation while minimising its damaging effects.