In vivo imaging reveals rapid astrocyte depletion and axon damage in a model of neuromyelitis optica-related pathology
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, which resembles multiple sclerosis (MS). NMO differs from MS, however, in the distribution and histology of neuroinflammatory lesions and shows a more aggressive clinical course. Moreover, the majority of NMO patients carry immunoglobulin G autoantibodies against aquaporin-4 (AQP4), an astrocytic water channel. Antibodies against AQP4 can damage astrocytes by complement, but NMO histopathology also shows demyelination, and — importantly—axon injury, which may determine permanent deficits following NMO relapses. The dynamics of astrocyte injury in NMO and the mechanisms by which toxicity spreads to axons are not understood.