One of the histological hallmarks of early multiple sclerosis lesions is primary demyelination, with myelin destruction and relative sparing of axons. On the other hand, it is widely accepted that axonal loss occurs in, and is responsible for, the permanent disability characterizing the later chronic progressive stage of the disease. In this study, we have used an antibody against amyloid precursor protein, known to be a sensitive marker of axonal damage in a number of other contexts, in immunocytochemical experiments on paraffin embedded multiple sclerosis lesions of varying ages in order to see at which stage of the disease axonal damage, in addition to demyelination, occurs and may thus contribute to the development of disability in patients. The results show the expression of amyloid precursor protein in damaged axons within acute multiple sclerosis lesions, and in the active borders of less acute lesions. This observation may have implications for the design and timing of therapeutic intervention, one of the most important aims of which must be the reduction of permanent disability.