Spotorno N, Lindberg O, Nilsson C, Landqvist Waldö M, van Westen D, Nilsson K, Vestberg S, Englund E, Zetterberg H, Blennow K, Lätt J, Markus N, Lars-Olof W and Alexander S
PLoS One. 2020 Oct 27;15(10):e0236384
Neurofilaments are structural components of neurons and are particularly abundant in highly myelinated axons. The levels of neurofilament light chain (NfL) in both cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma have been related to degeneration in several neurodegenerative conditions including frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and NfL is currently considered as the most promising diagnostic and prognostic fluid biomarker in FTD. Although the location and function of filaments in the healthy nervous system suggests a link between increased NfL and white matter degeneration, such a claim has not been fully elucidated in vivo, especially in the context of FTD. The present study provides evidence of an association between the plasma levels of NfL and white matter involvement in behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD) by relating plasma concentration of NfL to diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) metrics in a group of 20 bvFTD patients. The results of both voxel-wise and tract specific analysis showed that increased plasma NfL concentration is associated with a reduction in fractional anisotropy (FA) in a widespread set of white matter tracts including the superior longitudinal fasciculus, the fronto-occipital fasciculus the anterior thalamic radiation and the dorsal cingulum bundle. Plasma NfL concentration also correlated with cortical thinning in a portion of the right medial prefrontal cortex and of the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex. These results support the hypothesis that blood NfL levels reflect the global level of neurodegeneration in bvFTD and help to advance our understanding of the association between this blood biomarker for FTD and the disease process.