Fumaric acid esters (FAE) are a group of compounds which are currently under investigation as an oral treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. One of the suggested modes of action is the potential of FAE to exert a neuroprotective effect.
We have investigated the impact of monomethylfumarate (MMF) and dimethylfumaric acid (DMF) on de- and remyelination using the toxic cuprizone model where the blood-brain-barrier remains intact and only scattered T-cells and peripheral macrophages are found in the central nervous system (CNS), thus excluding the influence of immunomodulatory effects on peripheral immune cells. FAE showed marginally accelerated remyelination in the corpus callosum compared to controls. However, we found no differences for demyelination and glial reactions in vivo and no cytoprotective effect on oligodendroglial cells in vitro. In contrast, DMF had a significant inhibitory effect on lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced nitric oxide burst in microglia and induced apoptosis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC).