Journal Article

Progesterone and nestorone promote myelin regeneration in chronic demyelinating lesions of corpus callosum and cerebral cortex

Multiple Sclerosis affects mainly women and consists in intermittent or chronic damages to the myelin sheaths, focal inflammation, and axonal degeneration. Current therapies are limited to immunomodulators and antiinflammatory drugs, but there is no efficient treatment for stimulating the endogenous capacity of myelin repair. Progesterone and synthetic progestins have been shown in animal models of demyelination to attenuate myelin loss, reduce clinical symptoms severity, modulate inflammatory responses and partially reverse the age-dependent decline in remyelination. Moreover, progesterone has been demonstrated to promote myelin formation in organotypic cultures of cerebellar slices. In the present study, we show that progesterone and the synthetic 19-nor-progesterone derivative Nestorone® promote the repair of severe chronic demyelinating lesions induced by feeding cuprizone to female mice for up to 12 weeks. Progesterone and Nestorone increase the density of NG2^+ oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and CA II^+ mature oligodendrocytes and enhance the formation of myelin basic protein (MBP)- and proteolipid protein (PLP)-immunoreactive myelin. However, while demyelination in response to cuprizone was less marked in corpus callosum than in cerebral cortex, remyelination appeared earlier in the former. The remyelinating effect of progesterone was progesterone receptor (PR)-dependent, as it was absent in PR-knockout mice. Progesterone and Nestorone also decreased (but did not suppress) neuroinflammatory responses, specifically astrocyte and microglial cell activation. Therefore, some progestogens are promising therapeutic candidates for promoting the regeneration of myelin.