In the early phases of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RR-MS), a clear correlation between brain lesion load and clinical disability is often lacking, originating the so-called clinico-radiological paradox. Different factors may contribute to such discrepancy. In particular, synaptic plasticity may reduce the clinical expression of brain damage producing enduring enhancement of synaptic strength largely dependent on neurotrophin-induced protein synthesis. Cytokines released by the immune cells during acute inflammation can alter synaptic transmission and plasticity possibly influencing the clinical course of MS. In addition, immune cells may promote brain repair during the post-acute phases, by secreting different growth factors involved in neuronal and oligodendroglial cell survival. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is a neurotrophic factor that could be particularly involved in clinical recovery. Indeed, PDGF promotes long-term potentiation of synaptic activity in vitro and in MS and could therefore represent a key factor improving the clinical compensation of new brain lesions. The aim of the present study is to explore whether cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) PDGF concentrations at the time of diagnosis may influence the clinical course of RR-MS.
At the time of diagnosis, we measured in 100 consecutive early MS patients the CSF concentrations of PDGF, of the main pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and of reliable markers of neuronal damage. Clinical and radiological parameters of disease activity were prospectively collected during follow-up.
CSF PDGF levels were positively correlated with prolonged relapse-free survival. Radiological markers of disease activity, biochemical markers of neuronal damage, and clinical parameters of disease progression were instead not influenced by PDGF concentrations. Higher CSF PDGF levels were associated with an anti-inflammatory milieu within the central nervous system.
Our results suggest that PDGF could promote a more prolonged relapse-free period during the course of RR-MS, without influencing inflammation reactivation and inflammation-driven neuronal damage and likely enhancing adaptive plasticity.