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J Neurosci. 1997 Oct 1;17(19):7267-77.

Conduction in segmentally demyelinated mammalian central axons.

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Department of Neurology, United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospitals, Guy's Campus, London, SE1 9RT United Kingdom.


The prominent symptoms associated with central demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) are primarily caused by conduction deficits in affected axons. The symptoms may go into remission, but the mechanisms underlying remissions are uncertain. One factor that could be important is the restoration of conduction to affected axons, but it is not known whether demyelinated central axons resemble their peripheral counterparts in being able to conduct in the absence of repair by remyelination. In the present study we have made intra-axonal recordings from central axons affected by a demyelinating lesion, and then the axons have been labeled ionophoretically to permit their subsequent identification. Ultrastructural examination of 23 labeled preparations has established that some segmentally demyelinated central axons can conduct, and that they can do so over continuous lengths of demyelination exceeding several internodes (2500 micron). Such segmentally demyelinated central axons were found to conduct with the anticipated reduction in velocity and a refractory period of transmission (RPT) as much as 34 times the value obtained from the nondemyelinated portion of the same axon; the RPT was typically prolonged to 2-5 times the normal value. We conclude that some segmentally demyelinated central axons can conduct, and we propose that the restoration of conduction to such axons is likely to contribute to the remissions commonly observed in diseases such as MS.

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