Damage to nerve cells appears to occur years before people with multiple sclerosis (MS) begin to show symptoms and is evident in a likely biomarker, new data suggest.
Researchers found raised levels of neurofilament light chain (NfL), a protein associated with nerve cell damage, in blood samples collected six years before individuals were diagnosed with MS.
Kjetil Bjornevik, MD, PhD, with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, presented the data in a talk at the 35th congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS), which concluded Sept. 13 in Stockholm.
The presentation was titled “Serum neurofilament light chain as a presymptomatic biomarker in multiple sclerosis.”
Before the onset of MS symptoms, patients often show signs of the disease, largely unrecognized, while they are in what is called a presymptomatic or prodromal phase.
“Little is know about this [prodromal] phase, such as how long it is, and what happens during this phase,” Bjornevik said.
NfL, a protein associated with nerve cell damage, has been proposed as a biomarker of disease severity and treatment response in MS patients.
Researchers assessed whether measuring NfL blood levels could help identify people with early MS, and better determine if “NfL could be a biomarker of the presymptomatic phase,” Bjornevik said.