Serum neurofilament levels useful as diagnostic marker for frontotemporal dementia

Early-onset of frontotemporal dementia is commonly mistaken for other psychiatric disorders, and as a result, researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have publicized their findings on a new diagnostic tool to help distinguish such conditions.

For the study, released in the Journal of Neurology, researchers examined 125 participants, 34 with a late-onset primary psychiatric disorder (PPD) and 91 with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) spectrum disorder. Collectively, all the participants were studied through a time span of 18 years, from 1998 to 2016.

During the study, researchers examined serum neurofilament levels on participants with FTLD and others with PPD using a single-molecule array to identify distinct serum neurofilament profiles. The participants also underwent neurological and neuropsychological tests, which included magnetic resonance imaging, positron-emission tomography, single-photon emission computed tomography, and cerebrospinal fluid analysis.

According to the findings, higher levels of serum neurofilament was associated with the participants suffering from FTLD compared to the group with PPD. Based on these results, researchers determined with confidence that neurofilament could be a beneficial tool for distinguishing diagnosis between such conditions.

The study’s co-authors write: “Our study shows that sNfL levels with a 20 pg/mL cutoff value are a promising blood-derived discriminating biomarker between FTLD and PPD and that the especially high levels of sNfL in FTLD are associated with a more severe disease.”

“These findings highlight the potential of sNfL as a diagnostic and disease-monitoring tool in FTLD and, most importantly, emphasize the utility of a less invasive serum sample over lumbar puncture for biomarker analyses.”

“Further studies are needed to confirm our findings, especially regarding the relatively low sNfL levels in PPD patients, and to determine the optimal cutoff levels for sNfL as a clinical tool for the discrimination of FTLD from other etiologies.”