Background: Semantic dementia (SD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by progressive language problems falling within the clinicopathological spectrum of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). The development of disease-modifying agents may be facilitated by the relative clinical and pathological homogeneity of SD, but we need robust monitoring biomarkers to measure their efficacy. In different FTLD subtypes, neurofilament light chain (NfL) is a promising marker, therefore we investigated the utility of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) NfL in SD.
Methods: This large retrospective multicentre study compared cross-sectional CSF NfL levels of 162 patients with SD with 65 controls. CSF NfL levels of patients were correlated with clinical parameters (including survival), neuropsychological test scores and regional grey matter atrophy (including longitudinal data in a subset).
Results: CSF NfL levels were significantly higher in patients with SD (median: 2326 pg/mL, IQR: 1628-3593) than in controls (577 (446-766), p<0.001). Higher CSF NfL levels were moderately associated with naming impairment as measured by the Boston Naming Test (rs =-0.32, p=0.002) and with smaller grey matter volume of the parahippocampal gyri (rs =-0.31, p=0.004). However, cross-sectional CSF NfL levels were not associated with progression of grey matter atrophy and did not predict survival.
Conclusion: CSF NfL is a promising biomarker in the diagnostic process of SD, although it has limited cross-sectional monitoring or prognostic abilities.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.