Publications & Posters

Thirty Years After Anorexia Nervosa Onset, Serum Neurofilament Light Chain Protein Concentration Indicates Neuronal Injury

Wentz E, Dobrescu SR, Dinkler L, Gillberg C, Gillberg C, Blennow K, Råstam M and Zetterberg H.

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2020)


This study was peformed using a Simoa® Homebrew assay.


Little is known about the long-term consequences of anorexia nervosa (AN) in terms of possible brain neuronal injury. We aimed at investigating whether women with adolescent-onset AN exhibit increased serum levels of neurofilament light chain protein (NfL), a biomarker for neuronal injury, compared with matched controls at 30-year follow-up. Blood samples were collected from 34 women with adolescent-onset AN and 38 matched healthy comparison women (COMP), at a mean age of 44 years (range 38–48 years). NfL was measured in serum using the in-house single molecule array (Simoa) method. The individuals were asked whether they or their parents had been diagnosed with dementia. The Swedish National Patient Register was searched for diagnoses related to dementia. Serum NfL concentrations were significantly higher in the AN group (AN 27.7 pg/ml; COMP 19.0 pg/ml; p = 0.041). When individuals with medical/neurological disorders in the AN and COMP groups were excluded, there was a statistically non-significant trend towards higher concentrations in the AN group (AN 27.4 pg/ml; COMP 18.8 pg/ml; p = 0.060). None of the participants had been diagnosed with dementia. There was no significant correlation between serum NfL and AN duration (r = 0.15). There was a moderate negative correlation between the serum NfL concentration and the current BMI in the AN group (r = 0.44). This is the first time that serum NfL has been assessed in middle-aged women with a history of adolescent-onset AN. The results suggest that there might be increased axonal degeneration as a sequel of AN. Individuals remaining underweight had higher serum NfL concentrations than those with a normal/high BMI. Additional studies are needed to confirm increased serum NfL concentrations in individuals recovered from AN. There is a need for further study of axonal degeneration as a consequence of AN.