Gliosis is a medical term you may not have heard of before. It’s not common, but it does have severe repercussions if it affects your body and your life.
Gliosis is a reactive response of glial cells in your central nervous system. It follows an injury or trauma that affects the brain, and in some cases, the spinal cord. In actuality, it is a scar forming process in your brain, which results from a proliferation of astrocytes in the area of your brain that is injured or diseased. This scar formation is caused by glial cells in your central nervous system responding to the trauma or injury.
The Process of Gliosis
Gliosis includes a process that undergoes a series of changes in cellular and molecular structure that normally takes place over a period of a few days. Involved are the glial cells in the spinal cord and brain. It is the main response that occurs after you experience any disease, damage or injury to the brain.
Gliosis’ onset may be either detrimental or beneficial to your central nervous system. It aids the healthy cells surrounding the damage or disease, protecting them from additional damage or harm. This comes about by containing the unhealthy and damaged neurons, so that no more damage can be done. The beneficial aspect of gliosis is protecting your still healthy cells from the results of inflammation and cell death.
On the opposite side, the gliosis onset is detrimental because the scarring may continue and eventually lead to permanent or irreversible neuron damage, not allowing them to recover.
Gliosis symptoms depend on the molecular and cellular changes of glial cells. The changes occur as part of a non-specific body response to damage and trauma that may occur in your central nervous system. The symptoms may occur in any area of the brain in which injury, trauma or disease has occurred.
Glial scars are largely created after glial cells collect all the dead or damaged neurons together. The scars will serve as barriers or walls to contain those dead or damaged neurons, in order to protect healthy cells surrounding the area from harm as a result of contact with dead or damaged cells.
The clinical symptoms, then, depend on what part of the spinal cord or brain has been injured or damaged. They may occur in any area of the spinal cord or brain, especially where there has been an injury.
For example, gliosis found in your sensory cortex can cause you to experience a tingling sensation or numbness. If the gliosis is in the motor cortex, on the other hand, you may experience a sense of weakness. If your gliosis occurs in the occipital lobe, this may result in your experiencing impaired vision.
Causes of Gliosis
Disease, injury or trauma in the spinal cord and brain will trigger the gliosis process. Migration of microglia and macrophages to the injury site is gliosis’ primary process. This process is called microgliosis, and it occurs in the first several hours, right after the injury to the CNS or brain occurs.
Over the few days after the microgliosis develops, remyelination occurs, after the oligodendrocyte precursor cells migrate to the injury site. The scar that results will develop after the surrounding astrocytes have proliferated. This is referred to as astrogliosis.
Gliosis occurs after the proliferation of astrocytes. This incidence is brought on by a number of factors that cause injury in the brain or spinal cord.
Cardiovascular accidents or strokes are medical emergencies, where the brain ceases functioning because of an interruption in the flow of blood to your brain. Interruption in the blood supply going to any brain portion may cause brain cell death. This interruption in the flow of blood may occur within your brain, and this begins the gliosis process.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a nervous system inflammatory disease involving the myelin sheath of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. This inflammation inevitably disrupts the communication between your brain and the remainder of your body. Attacks in the myelin sheath cause damage in the brain tissue or spinal cord, which will later be contributing factors to gliosis. In fact, gliosis is a prominent feature in MS.
Some other factors that may contribute to gliosis include:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Acute central nervous system trauma
- Alzheimer’s disease
Treatment of Gliosis
Treating gliosis is usually directed toward the underlying cause of the reaction. It is a scar forming process that occurs in the immune system in response to an injury or trauma to the spinal cord or brain. It is usually triggered by a number of factors causing injury and trauma to your brain and spinal cord.
There has been no specific treatment identified for gliosis. The general therapeutic approach aims to minimize the proliferation of astrocytes in your central nervous system.