When the axon of a neuron is transected, the changes that take place in the distal segment, which is separated from the cell body, are termed wallerian degeneration. In addition, there are changes that take place in the neuronal cell body and the proximal axon. The changes that occur in the neuron and in its axon are not processes that happen in isolation, but are affected by the surrounding glial cells and by the influx of immune cells. Most of what is known about wallerian degeneration comes from studies in the peripheral nervous system (PNS). However, this is changing, and understanding the mechanisms underlying wallerian degeneration in the central nervous system (CNS) is likely to shed further light onto the pathogenesis of CNS disorders such as multiple sclerosis. In this section, we review what is known about wallerian degeneration and propose new avenues of research that improve our understanding of multiple sclerosis as a neuronal disease.
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