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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • cannabinoids;
  • gray matter;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • neuroinflammation;
  • PET;
  • remyelination

Background:  Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is traditionally considered as a central nervous system (CNS) white matter inflammatory disease. However, recent studies have focused on the neurodegenerative aspects of the disease, which occur early in the pathological process, providing an opportunity for therapeutic intervention and application of neuroprotective strategies. The relationship between neural inflammation and cell death remains controversial. The recent development of new radiolabelled ligands provides positron emission tomography (PET) imaging with a role for studying early aspects of the MS pathology.

Methods:  We provide an overview of current PET research in MS, particularly focussing on possible applications of new radioligands for studying inflammation and neurodegenerative processes.

Results:  Pathological aspects of neuroinflammation, axonal degeneration and neuronal repair may be explored in vivo with selective PET tracers. Specific radioligands for the cannabinoid system may be applied in MS research to understand the role of this neurotransmitter system in the pathogenesis of the disease.

Conclusions:  PET imaging represents a promising tool for elucidating controversial aspects of MS pathology and for the assessment of selective and potentially neuroprotective therapies.