Axonal damage markers in cerebrospinal fluid are increased in ALS

Neurology. 2006 Mar 28;66(6):852-6. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000203120.85850.54.


Objective: To test whether biomarkers for axonal degeneration correlated with clinical subtypes and were of use in predicting progression of ALS.

Methods: Patients with ALS (n = 69), patients with Alzheimer disease (AD; n = 73), and age-matched controls (n = 33) were included in this prospective study. CSF levels of tau protein and neurofilaments (NfHSMI35) were measured using ELISA. In 49 patients with ALS, follow-up data were available (median follow-up 7 months).

Results: CSF levels of NfHSMI35 were five times higher in patients with ALS (1.7 ng/mL) than in controls (0.3 ng/mL, p < 0.001) and 10 times higher than in patients with AD (0.14 ng/mL, p < 0.001). NfHSMI35 values were also higher in patients with upper motor neuron-dominant ALS than in patients with typical ALS (upper motor neuron + lower motor neuron) at p = 0.02. Values of NfHSMI35 were higher in ALS of more rapid progression. The values of NfH and tau did not correlate with CSF protein content.

Conclusions: The authors propose that axonal damage markers in CSF may discriminate between subtypes of ALS and that they could be used as markers for therapeutic trials. CSF NfH was superior to tau in these discriminations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / blood
  • Alzheimer Disease / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / blood
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Degeneration / blood
  • Nerve Degeneration / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Neurofilament Proteins / blood
  • Neurofilament Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid
  • tau Proteins / blood
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid


  • Biomarkers
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • tau Proteins