Incomplete remyelination via endogenous or therapeutically enhanced oligodendrogenesis is sufficient to recover visual cortical function

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Myelin loss induces deficits in action potential propagation that result in neural dysfunction and contribute to the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, injury conditions, and aging. Because remyelination is often incomplete, better understanding endogenous remyelination and developing remyelination therapies that seek to restore neural function are clinical imperatives. Here, we used in vivo two-photon microscopy and electrophysiology to study the dynamics of endogenous and therapeutic-induced cortical remyelination and functional recovery after cuprizone-mediated demyelination in mice. We focused on the visual pathway, which is uniquely positioned to provide insights into structure-function relationships during de/remyelination. We show that endogenous remyelination is driven by recent oligodendrocyte loss and is highly efficacious following mild demyelination, but fails to restore the oligodendrocyte population when high rates of oligodendrocyte loss occur too quickly. Testing a novel thyromimetic compared to clemastine fumarate, we find it better enhances oligodendrocyte gain during remyelination and hastens recovery of neuronal function. Surprisingly, its therapeutic benefit was temporally restricted, and it acted exclusively following moderate to severe demyelination to eliminate endogenous remyelination deficits. However, complete remyelination is unnecessary as partial oligodendrocyte restoration was sufficient to recover visual neuronal function. These findings advance our understanding of remyelination and its impact on functional recovery to inform future therapeutic strategies.

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