During the first six months of the study, participants received no disease-modifying treatment. At six months, all patients began treatment with Rebif (interferon-beta 1a) for the remaining 18 months of the study. Meanwhile, they received monthly MRI scans during the first nine months, followed by a scan at year one and year two. Researchers also gathered blood samples at the beginning of the study, and again at month three, six, 12 and 24.
The analyses revealed that when new brain lesions — both of inflammatory and non-inflammatory types — appeared, levels of the nerve factor jumped. That increase was linked to lesion development up to two months before and one month after the blood measurement.
Once patients started treatment with Rebif, the levels of neurofilament dropped.
“We monitored neurofilament light chain levels in the blood of people with the relapsing-remitting form of MS and found levels of this nerve protein were higher when people had new disease activity and lower when they took medication to reduce the number of symptom flare-ups,” Varhaug said.
Additional statistical analyses showed that for every 10 picograms/mL increase in blood levels of the nerve factor, the risk of developing a new T1 type inflammatory lesion rose by 48 percent. This increase in neurofilament light chain levels was also linked to a 62 percent increased risk of developing a new T2 type lesion (T1 and T2 are two different types of imaging techniques).
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