Multiple sclerosis.
Journal: 2008/November - The Lancet
ISSN: 1474-547X
Multiple sclerosis is primarily an inflammatory disorder of the brain and spinal cord in which focal lymphocytic infiltration leads to damage of myelin and axons. Initially, inflammation is transient and remyelination occurs but is not durable. Hence, the early course of disease is characterised by episodes of neurological dysfunction that usually recover. However, over time the pathological changes become dominated by widespread microglial activation associated with extensive and chronic neurodegeneration, the clinical correlate of which is progressive accumulation of disability. Paraclinical investigations show abnormalities that indicate the distribution of inflammatory lesions and axonal loss (MRI); interference of conduction in previously myelinated pathways (evoked electrophysiological potentials); and intrathecal synthesis of oligoclonal antibody (examination by lumbar puncture of the cerebrospinal fluid). Multiple sclerosis is triggered by environmental factors in individuals with complex genetic-risk profiles. Licensed disease modifying agents reduce the frequency of new episodes but do not reverse fixed deficits and have questionable effects on the long-term accumulation of disability and disease progression. We anticipate that future studies in multiple sclerosis will provide a new taxonomy on the basis of mechanisms rather than clinical empiricism, and so inform strategies for improved treatment at all stages of the disease.
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