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Remyelination in the Human Central Nervous System

Nitya R. Ghatak M.D., Robert T. Leshner M.D., Ann C. Price M.D., Warren L. Felton III M.D.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00005072-198909000-00002 507-518 First published online: 1 September 1989


Remyelination, albeit incomplete, has been demonstrated in human central nervous system (CNS). However, information about the initial stage and the final extent of such remyelination is not available. We describe the morphologic findings of a demyelinating lesion with evidence of early remyelination in a biopsy obtained from a 15-year-old boy about two weeks after the onset of neurologic symptoms. The demyelinated area appeared hypercellular with a relatively large number of oligodendrocytes frequently seen in the process of new myelin formation. In addition to the usual reactive changes, the astrocytes were often seen to contain otherwise normallooking oligodendrocytes within their cytoplasm. In the ensuing months, the patient made apparently total functional recovery accompanied by nearly complete resolution of the white matter lesions demonstrated by the subsequent magnetic resonance studies. These observations suggested that the initial remyelination seen in the biopsy eventually succeeded in producing extensive remyelination in the lesion. Although the exact nature of the demyelinating disorder in our patient remains undetermined, this study indicates that clinically significant remyelination is possible in human CNS. Also, our findings appeared strikingly similar to those described in certain experimental animal models in which widespread remyelination is known to occur.

Key Words
  • Astrocyte
  • Demyelination
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Oligodendrocyte
  • Remyelination