A blood test may someday replace some of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans taken by people with multiple sclerosis (MS) — offering an easy, cheap alternative for monitoring disease activity.
A study by Norway’s University of Bergen found that blood levels of a factor called neurofilament light chain, released from damaged neurons, correlated closely with the appearance of new brain lesions. The levels dropped when patients started treatment.
The study, “Neurofilament light chain predicts disease activity in relapsing-remitting MS,” appeared in the journal Neurology, Neuroimmunology and Neuroinflammation. Its findings strengthen the case of neurofilament light chain as a reliable factor for measuring disease activity in MS patients.
“Since MS varies so much from person to person and is so unpredictable in how the disease will progress and how people will respond to treatment, identifying a biomarker like this that can help us make predictions would be very helpful,” Dr. Kristin Varhaug, the study’s first author, said in a press release. “These blood tests could provide a low-cost alternative to MRI for monitoring disease activity.”
Researchers worldwide have realized the potential of neurofilament light chain as an MS marker. Varhaug’s team recruited 85 patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) to a trial (NCT00360906) exploring how the factor related to disease activity measured by MRI. These patients were in relatively early disease stages and had been ill for an average two years.