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Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2010 Sep;3(5):311-21. doi: 10.1177/1756285610382478.

Anti-aquaporin-4 antibodies in Devic's neuromyelitis optica: therapeutic implications.

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  • 1Service de Neurologie A and EDMUS Coordinating Center, Hôpital Neurologique Pierre Wertheimer, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, F-69677, France.


Devic's neuromyelitis optica (DNMO) is a demyelinating and inflammatory disease of the central nervous system (CNS) essentially restricted to the spinal cord and the optic nerves. It is a rare disorder with a prevalence estimated at less than 1/100,000 in Western countries. Since the first description by Eugène Devic in 1894, the relationship between DNMO and multiple sclerosis (MS) has been controversial. Recent clinical, epidemiological, pathological and immunological data demonstrate that MS and DNMO are distinct entities. This distinction between DNMO and MS is crucial, as prognosis and treatment are indeed different. DNMO is now considered to be an autoimmune, antibody-mediated disease especially since the identification of a specific serum autoantibody, named NMO-IgG and directed against the main water channel of the CNS, aquaporin-4 (AQP4). The assessment of AQP4 antibodies (Abs) has initially been proposed to differentiate DNMO and MS. It has also enlarged the clinical spectrum of DNMO and proved to be helpful in predicting relapses and conversion to DNMO after a first episode of longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis or isolated optic neuritis. Lastly, the discovery of the pathogenic role of AQP4 Abs in DNMO leads to a better understanding of detailed DNMO immunopathology and the elaboration of relevant novel treatment strategies specific to DNMO. In this review, we summarize the present and future therapeutic implications generated by the discovery of the various pathogenic mechanisms of AQP4 Abs in DNMO pathophysiology.


aquaporin-4; autoantibody; myelitis; neuromyelitis optica; treatment

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