Researchers discover biomarker for neurodegeneration detectable in the eye

By examining eye fluid samples in several dozen human participants, a team of researchers at Boston Medical Center uncovered a new biomarker for the detection of neurodegenerative diseases.

Published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, the research team gathered eye fluid samples from more than 70 patients who were in the process of a surgical eye procedure at the Boston-based medical institution.

Among the participants, the majority were male and in mid-adulthood around the age of 55.

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, for instance, could be predicted through the presence of what is known as amyloid- β and tau proteins in the fluid around the eye. In the study, all of the participants that were evaluated had neurofilament light chain in their vitreous humor. Increased levels of this were linked to higher levels of other biomarkers associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

“This study investigated the presence of neurofilament light chain (NfL) in the vitreous humor and its associations with amyloid beta, tau, inflammatory cytokines and vascular proteins, apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotypes, Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores, systemic disease, and ophthalmic diseases,” according to the findings.

“NfL is detectable in the vitreous humor of the eye and significantly associated with amyloid beta, t-tau, and select inflammatory and vascular proteins in the vitreous,” the co-authors concluded in their journal article.

“Our results serve as a foundation for further investigation of NfL in the ocular fluids to inform us about the potential utility of its presence in the eye.”

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Aging and other funders.

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