Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and demyelinating condition of the CNS, characterized by perivascular infiltrates composed largely of T lymphocytes and macrophages. Although the precise cause remains unknown, numerous avenues of research support the hypothesis that autoimmune mechanisms play a major role in the development of the disease. Pathologically similar lesions to those seen in MS can be induced in laboratory rodents by immunization with CNS-derived antigens. This form of disease induction, broadly termed experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, is frequently the starting point in MS research with respect to studying pathogenesis and creating novel treatments. Many different EAE models are available, each mimicking a particular facet of MS. These models all have common ancestry, and have developed from a single concept of immunization with self-antigen. We will discuss the major changes in immunology research, which have shaped the EAE models we use today, and discuss how current animal models of MS have resulted in successful treatments and more open questions for researchers to address.
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