Medicina (Buenos Aires)
versión On-line ISSN 1669-9106
The concept of multiple sclerosis (MS) as a demyelinating disease is deeply ingrained. Although the existence of a neurodegenerative component has always been apparent, it has only recently become emphasized. Thus, in recent years several studies have identified axonal degeneration as the major determinant of irreversible neurological disability in patients with MS. Axonal injury begins at disease onset and remains clinically silent for many years; irreversible neurological disability develops when a threshold of axonal loss is reached and CNS compensatory mechanisms are exhausted. The precise mechanisms of axonal loss are poorly understood, and three hypotheses have been proposed: 1) The damage is caused by an inflammatory process, 2) There is an excessive accumulation of intra-axonal Ca2+, 3) Demyelinated axons undergo degeneration due to lack of trophic support by myelin, or myelin forming cells. Although MS has traditionally been regarded as a disease of white matter, demyelination can also occur in the cerebral cortex. Cortical lesions exhibit neuronal injury represented by dendritic and axonal transection as well as neuronal apoptosis. Because conventional nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is limited in its ability to provide specific information about axonal pathology in MS, new techniques such as, diffusion-weighted MRI, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, functional MRI, as well as novel techniques designed to measure atrophy have been developed to monitor MS evolution. Recognition that MS is in part a neurodegenerative disease should trigger critical rethinking on the pathogenic mechanisms of this disease and provides new targets for a rational treatment.
Palabras clave : Multiple sclerosis; Axon; Neurodegenerative diseases; Autoimmunity; Cerebral cortex; Apoptosis.