Serum neurofilament light chain, brain infarcts, and the risk of stroke: a prospective population-based cohort study

Eur J Epidemiol. 2023 Apr;38(4):427-434. doi: 10.1007/s10654-023-00978-6. Epub 2023 Mar 3.


Neurofilament light chain (NfL), a neuron-specific protein, has been related to several neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, elevated levels of NfL have also been observed in patients admitted to the hospital for stroke, suggesting that NfL as a biomarker may extend well beyond neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, using data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), a population-based cohort study, we prospectively investigated the association of serum NfL levels with incident stroke and brain infarcts. During a follow-up of 3603 person-years, 133 (16.3%) individuals developed incident stroke, including ischemic and hemorrhagic. The HR (95%CI) of incident stroke was 1.28 (95%CI 1.10-1.50) per 1 standard deviation (SD) increase of log10 NfL serum levels. Compared to participants in the first tertile of NfL (i.e., lower levels), the risk of stroke was 1.68 times higher (95%CI 1.07-2.65) in those in the second tertile and 2.35 times higher (95%CI 1.45-3.81) in those in the third tertile of NfL. NfL levels were also positively associated with brain infarcts; 1-SD in log10 NfL levels was associated with 1.32 (95%CI 1.06-1.66) higher odds of one or more brain infarcts. These results suggest that NfL may serve as a biomarker of stroke in older adults.

Keywords: Brain infarcts; Epidemiology; Incidence; MRI; Neurofilament light chain; Stroke.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain Infarction / epidemiology
  • Brain Infarction / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / metabolism
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stroke* / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers