Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system that can produce marked neurological deficit. Current NMO therapies include immunosuppressants, plasma exchange and B-cell depletion. Here, we evaluated 14 potential remyelinating drugs emerging from prior small molecule screens done to identify drugs for repurposing in multiple sclerosis and other demyelinating neurological diseases. Compounds were initially evaluated in oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) and cerebellar slice cultures, and then in a mouse model of NMO produced by intracerebral injection of anti-AQP4 autoantibody (AQP4-IgG) and human complement characterized by demyelination with minimal axonal damage. The FDA-approved drug clobetasol promoted differentiation in OPC cultures and remyelination in cerebellar slice cultures and in mice. Intraperitoneal administration of 2 mg/kg/day clobetasol reduced myelin loss by ~60 %, even when clobetasol was administered after demyelination occurred. Clobetasol increased the number of mature oligodendrocytes within lesions without significantly altering initial astrocyte damage or inflammation. These results provide proof-of-concept for the potential utility of a remyelinating approach in the treatment of NMO.
Keywords: Clobetasol; Demyelination; Mouse models; NMO; Oligodendrocyte.