Leukodystrophy can be broken down. Leuko- means “white”, -dys means “abnormal” and -troph means “growth”.
So, leukodystrophy means degeneration of the white matter of the brain, and that’s the part of the cerebral cortex that’s filled with myelinated axons.
Myelin refers to the electrical insulation sheath around axons which allows neurons to quickly send electrical impulses to one another.
Leukodystrophy is a dysmyelinating disease, meaning the structure of the myelin is abnormal, and it’s usually due to a genetic mutation.
In contrast, in a demyelinating diseases, previously normal myelin is damaged, like in multiple sclerosis where the immune cells attack the myelin.
There are many different kinds of leukodystrophy, but the most common ones are Krabbe disease, metachromatic leukodystrophy, and adrenoleukodystrophy.
The cerebral cortex is the largest region of the brain and it’s responsible for sensory and motor functions.
The cerebral cortex has an outer grey area and an inner white area.
The grey area, referred to as grey matter, houses neuron cell bodies.
And the white area, referred to as white matter, houses myelinated axons.
It is lighter because of the high fat content in myelin.
Neurons are the key cells that transmit neural impulses to one another through synapses.
Each neuron has dendrites, a cell body, and an axon.
Dendrites are the branches that first receive a neural impulse at a synapse with another neuron.
The neural impulse passes through the cell body and goes through an axon, which projects information away from the cell body to another cell.
Glial cells are support cells for neurons and they produce myelin to coat the axons.
Myelin is a specialized membrane which helps insulate the axon to make neural impulses travel faster.
Glial cells in the central nervous system, are called oligodendrocytes, and glial cells in the peripheral nervous system are called Schwann cells.