Age is one of the many factors that influence remyelination following CNS demyelination, although it is not clear whether it is the extent or rate of remyelination that is affected. To resolve this issue we have compared remyelination in young and old adult rat CNS following gliotoxin-induced demyelination. Remyelination of areas of ethidium bromide-induced demyelination in the caudal cerebellar peduncle reached completion by 4 weeks in young adult rats (2 months) but was not complete until 9 weeks in old adult rats (9-12 months). We have also shown that remyelination of lysolecithin-induced demyelination in the spinal white matter of old adult rats (18 months) can be extensive, with longer survival times (8 weeks) than have previously been examined. Thus, it is the rate rather than the extent of remyelination that changes in the ageing CNS. These results have important implications for understanding the mechanisms of remyelination, indicating that remyelination need not occur rapidly for it to be extensive. The capacity for the process of remyelination to continue over many weeks must also be borne in mind when assessing remyelination-enhancement strategies either by transplantation or promotion of endogenous mechanisms.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.