Elevated cerebrospinal fluid neurofilament light levels in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a possible marker of disease severity and progression

Eur J Neurol. 2012 Dec;19(12):1561-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-1331.2012.03777.x. Epub 2012 Jun 11.


Background: To date there are no biomarkers with proven reliability as a measure of disease burden in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The aim of our study is to assess the neurofilament light chain (NFL) in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples as a measure of disease activity and progression in ALS.

Methods: Thirty-seven consecutive patients with ALS, 25 with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and 21 with other neurodegenerative diseases were evaluated. CSF NFL levels were assayed by two-site solid-phase sandwich ELISA. In patients with ALS, neurological status was assessed by the revised ALS Functional Rating Scale (ALSFRS-r) and the Medical Research Council scale, and the progression of the disease was evaluated using the 'diagnostic delay' and the 'progression rate'.

Results: Cerebrospinal fluid NFL levels were higher in ALS cases than in controls (P < 0.0001). Using receiver operating curve analysis, an optimal NFL cut-off of 1981 ng/l discriminated between patients with ALS and neurological controls, with a sensitivity of 78.4% and specificity of 72.5%. Multivariate logistic regression confirmed the association between CSF NFL levels and the presence of ALS (age and sex adjusted odds ratio for ALS 8.9; 95% CI 3.1-25.8; P < 0.0001). In ALS, CSF NFL negatively correlated with the diagnostic delay (P < 0.0001) and the ALSFRS-r (P = 0.014) and positively with the progression rate (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: High CSF NFL levels were found in patients with ALS, reflecting the burden of neurodegeneration. The significant relation between CSF NFL levels and disease progression suggests that NFL may be a useful marker of disease activity and progression in ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofilament Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid*


  • Biomarkers
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • neurofilament protein L