Publications & Posters

Associations between neurofilament light-chain protein, brain structure, and chronic kidney disease

Pediatric Research | July 17, 2021

van der Plas E, Lullmann O, Hopkins L, Schultz JL, Nopoulos PC and Harshman LA

Pediatr Res. 2021




Neurofilament light-chain (NfL) protein is a blood-based marker of neuroaxonal injury. We sought to (1) compare plasma NfL levels in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and healthy peers, (2) characterize the relationship between NfL level and kidney function, and (3) evaluate NfL as a predictor of abnormal brain structure in CKD.


Sixteen children with CKD due to congenital kidney anomalies and 23 typically developing peers were included. Plasma NfL was quantified using single-molecule array immunoassay. Participants underwent structural magnetic resonance imaging. Multiple linear regression models were used to evaluate the association between plasma NfL levels, kidney function, and brain structure.


An age × group interaction was identified whereby NfL levels increased with age in the CKD group only (estimate = 0.65; confidence interval (CI) = 0.08–1.22; p = 0.026). Decreased kidney function was associated with higher NfL levels (estimate = −0.10; CI = −0.16 to −0.04; p = 0.003). Lower cerebellar gray matter volume predicted increased plasma NfL levels (estimate = −0.00024; CI = −0.00039 to 0.00009; p = 0.004) within the CKD group.


Children with CKD show accelerated age-related increases in NfL levels. NfL level is associated with lower kidney function and abnormal brain structure in CKD.