Publications & Posters

Differential longitudinal changes of neuronal and glial damage markers in anorexia nervosa after partial weight restoration

Translational Psychiatry | February 9, 2021

Hellerhoff I, King JA, Tam FI, Pauligk S, Seidel M, Geisler D, Bahnsen K, Kretschmann N, Akgün K, Roessner V, Ziemssen T and Ehrlich S

Transl Psychiatry 11, 86 (2021)



Atrophic brain changes in acute anorexia nervosa (AN) are often visible to the naked eye on computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging scans, but it remains unclear what is driving these effects. In neurological diseases, neurofilament light (NF-L) and tau protein have been linked to axonal damage. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) has been associated with astroglial injury. In an attempt to shed new light on factors potentially underlying past findings of structural brain alterations in AN, the current study investigated serum NF-L, tau protein, and GFAP levels longitudinally in AN patients undergoing weight restoration. Blood samples were obtained from 54 acutely underweight, predominantly adolescent female AN patients and 54 age-matched healthy control participants. AN patients were studied in the severely underweight state and again after short-term partial weight restoration. Group comparisons revealed higher levels of NF-L, tau protein, and GFAP in acutely underweight patients with AN compared to healthy control participants. Longitudinally, a decrease in NF-L and GFAP but not in tau protein levels was observed in AN patients upon short-term partial weight restoration. These results may be indicative of ongoing neuronal and astroglial injury during the underweight phase of AN. Normalization of NF-L and GFAP but not tau protein levels may indicate an only partial restoration of neuronal and astroglial integrity upon weight gain after initial AN-associated cell damage processes.

This study was performed using the Quanterix HD-1 Analyzer.