Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory demyelinating disorder in which remyelination failure contributes to persistent disability. Cholesterol is rate-limiting for myelin biogenesis in the developing CNS; however, whether cholesterol insufficiency contributes to remyelination failure in MS, is unclear.
Here, we show the relationship between cholesterol, myelination and neurological parameters in mouse models of demyelination and remyelination. In the cuprizone model, acute disease reduces serum cholesterol levels that can be restored by dietary cholesterol. Concomitant with blood-brain barrier impairment, supplemented cholesterol directly supports oligodendrocyte precursor proliferation and differentiation, and restores the balance of growth factors, creating a permissive environment for repair.
This leads to attenuated axon damage, enhanced remyelination and improved motor learning. Remarkably, in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, cholesterol supplementation does not exacerbate disease expression.
These findings emphasize the safety of dietary cholesterol in inflammatory diseases and point to a previously unrecognized role of cholesterol in promoting repair after demyelinating episodes.