Research: Blood biomarkers can be used to detect 13 neurodegenerative diseases

According to foreign media reports, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications claims that a blood-based biomarker can detect the presence of 13 neurodegenerative diseases, from frontotemporal dementia to motor neuron disease . This test cannot clearly distinguish each disease, but it is proposed as a way to determine whether patients with memory problems are in the early stages of neurodegenerative disease.

Neurofilament light chain (NfL) is a protein released into the cerebrospinal fluid when brain cells are damaged. It can be detected in the blood, and researchers have long been studying this biomarker as an easy way to diagnose neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

The new study investigated more than 3,000 blood samples from different cohorts to find out whether blood levels of NfL can distinguish cognitively healthy people from people with neurodegenerative diseases.

Studies have found that NfL levels can effectively detect one of 13 different neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, and more importantly, NfL levels can be used to determine whether patients with moderate to severe depression suffer from early neurodegeneration.

The study’s paper and senior author Abdul Hye pointed out that this particular discovery means that NfL levels can be used clinically, and it can be used to help doctors determine whether a patient’s cognitive symptoms are early signs of neurodegeneration or other mental problems.

"This is the first time we have demonstrated in many diseases that a single biomarker can very accurately indicate the existence of underlying neurodegeneration," Hye said. "Although it is not for any disease, it can help such as Services such as memory clinics serve as a quick screening tool to identify whether memory, thinking, or mental problems are the result of neurodegeneration."

Although studies have found that NfL blood levels cannot diagnose specific neurodegenerative diseases, the researchers point out that biomarkers are indeed valuable in tracking the nuances of specific patient populations. High blood NfL levels in patients with Parkinson's disease have been found to be a sign of atypical cases of the disease. In subjects with Down syndrome, high NfL levels were found to be associated with dementia.

The study’s co-author Andre Strydom noted: “This suggests that the new marker may be used to improve the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in patients with Down’s syndrome and as a biomarker to show whether the treatment is effective. . The exciting thing is that all we need is a simple blood test, which is better tolerated by people with Down syndrome than a brain scan."

Since NfL levels naturally rise with age, this new study also provides age-related criteria to distinguish between normal and abnormal NfL levels. This will help clinicians determine whether the blood level of NfL is a sign of neurodegeneration or simply because it accumulates naturally with age.

"Blood-based NfL provides a scalable, widely accessible alternative to invasive and expensive dementia testing," Hye added. "In some European countries such as Sweden or the Netherlands, it has been Used as a routine assessment, our age-related cut-off value can provide clinicians with a benchmark and a quick and accessible test to show neurodegeneration in people who have problems with thinking and memory."

Article source: Cienbetta