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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Mar;72(6):1127-47. doi: 10.1007/s00018-014-1787-9. Epub 2014 Nov 23.

Thalamus pathology in multiple sclerosis: from biology to clinical application.

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Institute of Neuroanatomy, Faculty of Medicine, RWTH Aachen University, Wendlingweg 2, 52074, Aachen, Germany,


There is a broad consensus that MS represents more than an inflammatory disease: it harbors several characteristic aspects of a classical neurodegenerative disorder, i.e. damage to axons, synapses and nerve cell bodies. While the clinician is equipped with appropriate tools to dampen peripheral cell recruitment and, thus, is able to prevent immune-cell driven relapses, effective therapeutic options to prevent the simultaneously progressing neurodegeneration are still missing. Furthermore, while several sophisticated paraclinical methods exist to monitor the inflammatory-driven aspects of the disease, techniques to monitor progression of early neurodegeneration are still in their infancy and have not been convincingly validated. In this review article, we aim to elaborate why the thalamus with its multiple reciprocal connections is sensitive to pathological processes occurring in different brain regions, thus acting as a "barometer" for diffuse brain parenchymal damage in MS. The thalamus might be, thus, an ideal region of interest to test the effectiveness of new neuroprotective MS drugs. Especially, we will address underlying pathological mechanisms operant during thalamus degeneration in MS, such as trans-neuronal or Wallerian degeneration. Furthermore, we aim at giving an overview about different paraclinical methods used to estimate the extent of thalamic pathology in MS patients, and we discuss their limitations. Finally, thalamus involvement in different MS animal models will be described, and their relevance for the design of preclinical trials elaborated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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