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Saliva Neurofilament Light Chain Is Not a Diagnostic Biomarker for Neurodegeneration in a Mixed Memory Clinic Population

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | May 10, 2021

Gleerup HS, Sanna F, Høgh P, Simrén J, Blennow K, Zetterberg H, Hasselbalch SG, Ashton NJ and Simonsen AH

Front Aging Neurosci. 2021;13



Neurodegeneration and axonal injury result in an increasing release of neurofilament light chain (NfL) into bodily fluids, including cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood. Numerous studies have shown that NfL levels in CSF and blood are increased in neurodegenerative disorders and monitor neurodegeneration. Saliva is an easily accessible biofluid that could be utilized as a biofluid measurement of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) biomarkers. In this study, for the first time, salivary NfL was measured and compared to plasma NfL in a consecutive cohort of patients referred to cognitive assessments. In two mixed memory clinic cohorts, saliva samples were taken from 152 patients, AD (n = 49), mild cognitive impairment (MCI) (n = 47), non-AD (n = 56), and also 17 healthy controls. In addition, 135 also had a matching plasma sample. All saliva and plasma samples were analyzed for NfL, and the association between saliva and plasma NfL and CSF levels of total tau (t-tau), phosphorylated tau (p-tau), and beta amyloid 1–42 (Aβ42) were investigated. In total, 162/169 had quantifiable levels of salivary NfL by single molecule array (Simoa). No statistically significant differences were found in salivary NfL concentration across the diagnostic groups, but as expected, significant increases were found for plasma NfL in dementia cases (P < 0.0001). There was no association between saliva and plasma NfL levels. Furthermore, saliva NfL did not correlate with CSF Aβ42, p-tau, or tau concentrations. In conclusion, NfL is detectable in saliva but does not reflect neurodegeneration in the brain.