Serum neurofilament light chain levels are increased in patients with a clinically isolated syndrome

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Neurofilament light chain (NfL) represents a promising biomarker for axonal injury. We present the first exploratory study on serum NfL in patients with a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) and healthy controls.


We investigated serum NfL levels in 100 patients with CIS with a short conversion interval to clinically definite multiple sclerosis (MS) (fast converters (FC), median (IQR) conversion time: 110 days (79–139)); 98 patients with non-converting CIS (non-converters (NC), follow-up: 6.5 years (5.3–7.9)); and 92 healthy controls.


NfL levels were higher in FC (24.1 pg/mL (13.5–51.8)) and NC (19.3 pg/mL (13.6–35.2)) than in healthy controls (7.9 pg/mL (5.6–17.2)) (OR=5.85; 95% CI 2.63 to 13.02; p=1.5×10−5 and OR=7.03; 95% CI 2.85 to 17.34; p=2.3×10−5, respectively). When grouping FC and NC, increased serum NfL concentration was also associated with increasing numbers of T2 hyperintense MRI lesions (OR=2.36; 95% CI 1.21 to 4.59; p=0.011), gadolinium-enhancing lesions (OR=2.69; 95% CI 1.13 to 6.41; p=0.026) and higher disability scores (OR=2.54; 95% CI 1.21 to 5.31; p=0.013) at CIS diagnosis.


If replicated in future studies, serum NfL may represent a reliable and easily accessible biomarker of early axonal damage in CIS and MS.

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