Serum neurofilament light chain and optical coherence tomography measures in MS: A longitudinal study

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 May 18;7(4):e737. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000737. Print 2020 Jul.


Objective: To study the association between serum neurofilament light chain (sNfL) and multiple optical coherence tomography (OCT) measures in patients with MS and healthy controls (HCs).

Methods: In this prospective study, 110 patients with MS were recruited, together with 52 age- and sex-matched HCs. Clinical evaluation and spectral domain OCT and sNfL were obtained at baseline and after 5.5 years of follow-up. Nested linear mixed models were used to assess differences between MS vs HC and associations between sNfL and OCT measures. Partial correlation coefficients are reported, and p values were adjusted for the false discovery rate.

Results: At baseline, peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness (pRNFLT) and macular ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer thickness (mGCIP) were significantly lower in MS than HC both in MS-associated optic neuritis (MSON) (p = 0.007, p = 0.001) and nonaffected MSON (n-MSON) eyes (p = 0.003, p = 0.018), along with total macular volume (TMV) in n-MSON eyes (p = 0.011). At follow-up, MS showed significantly lower pRNFLT, mGCIP, and TMV both in MSON and n-MSON eyes (p < 0.001) compared with HC. In MS n-MSON eyes, sNfL was significantly associated with baseline pRNFLT and mGCIP (q = 0.019). No significant associations were found in MSON eyes.

Conclusions: This study confirms the ability of sNfL to detect neurodegeneration in MS and advocates for the inclusion of sNfL and OCT measures in clinical trials.

Classification of evidence: This study provides Class III evidence that sNfL levels were associated with MS neurodegeneration measured by OCT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis / pathology
  • Neurofilament Proteins / blood*
  • Optic Neuritis / blood
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnosis*
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Optic Neuritis / pathology
  • Retinal Neurons / pathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*


  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • neurofilament protein L