Spectrum Library

Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders: from pathophysiology to therapeutic strategies

Edgar Carnero Contentti 1, Jorge Correale 2

Affiliations expand
PMID: 34530847 PMCID: PMC8444436 DOI: 10.1186/s12974-021-02249-1


Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS) characterized by acute optic neuritis (ON) and transverse myelitis (TM). NMO is caused by a pathogenic serum IgG antibody against the water channel aquoporin 4 (AQP4) in the majority of patients. AQP4-antibody (AQP4-ab) presence is highly specific, and differentiates NMO from multiple sclerosis. It binds to AQP4 channels on astrocytes, triggering activation of the classical complement cascade, causing granulocyte, eosinophil, and lymphocyte infiltration, culminating in injury first to astrocyte, then oligodendrocytes followed by demyelination and neuronal loss. NMO spectrum disorder (NMOSD) has recently been defined and stratified based on AQP4-ab serology status. Most NMOSD patients experience severe relapses leading to permanent neurologic disability, making suppression of relapse frequency and severity, the primary objective in disease management. The most common treatments used for relapses are steroids and plasma exchange.Currently, long-term NMOSD relapse prevention includes off-label use of immunosuppressants, particularly rituximab. In the last 2 years however, three pivotal clinical trials have expanded the spectrum of drugs available for NMOSD patients. Phase III studies have shown significant relapse reduction compared to placebo in AQP4-ab-positive patients treated with satralizumab, an interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) inhibitor, inebilizumab, an antibody against CD19+ B cells; and eculizumab, an antibody blocking the C5 component of complement. In light of the new evidence on NMOSD pathophysiology and of preliminary results from ongoing trials with new drugs, we present this descriptive review, highlighting promising treatment modalities as well as auspicious preclinical and clinical studies.

Keywords: Aquaporin-4-antibody; Astrocyte; Complement; Neuroinflammation; Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD); Ongoing trials; Treatment.


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