A neuronal blood marker is associated with mortality in old age
Nature Aging | February 11, 2021
Kaeser SA, Lehallier B, Thinggaard M, Häsler LM, Apel A, Bergmann C, Berdnik D, Jeune B, Christensen K, Grönke S, Partridge L, Wyss-Coray T, Mengel-From J and Jucker M
Nature Aging. 2021;1:218-225
Neurofilament light chain (NfL) has emerged as a promising blood biomarker for the progression of various neurological diseases. NfL is a structural protein of nerve cells, and elevated NfL levels in blood are thought to mirror damage to the nervous system. We find that plasma NfL levels increase in humans with age (n = 122; 21–107 years of age) and correlate with changes in other plasma proteins linked to neural pathways. In centenarians (n = 135), plasma NfL levels are associated with mortality equally or better than previously described multi-item scales of cognitive or physical functioning, and this observation was replicated in an independent cohort of nonagenarians (n = 180). Plasma NfL levels also increase in aging mice (n = 114; 2–30 months of age), and dietary restriction, a paradigm that extends lifespan in mice, attenuates the age-related increase in plasma NfL levels. These observations suggest a contribution of nervous system functional deterioration to late-life mortality.