Scientists find a promising marker to accurately predict Alzheimer’s disease risk

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New findings by neuroscience researchers at Wayne State University support the potential of blood neurofilament light (NfL) as a useful biomarker for predicting the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The review article, led by Youjin Jung and Jessica Damoiseaux, Ph.D., is published in the journal Brain.

Blood NfL as a Minimally Invasive Biomarker

Blood-based NfL offers a minimally invasive and easily accessible method for assessing neurodegeneration, making it a promising clinical tool.

The researchers analyzed existing literature to explore the relationship between blood NfL and structural/functional brain measures from MRI and PET imaging.

The Significance of Elevated NfL Levels

Although NfL levels increase with typical aging as a general marker of neuronal damage, they rise at a significantly higher rate in Alzheimer’s disease.

The research indicates that higher levels of NfL are correlated with atrophy in key brain regions, particularly the medial temporal lobe.

Elevated NfL levels are also associated with more severe glucose hypometabolism and compromised white matter integrity in individuals along the Alzheimer’s continuum.

Predicting Alzheimer’s Progression

“NfL shows great promise as a monitoring biomarker to indicate the severity of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease,” said Damoiseaux.

This makes the marker particularly useful for those who are currently cognitively unimpaired but have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s due to factors such as the APOE ε4 allele or elevated levels of Aβ (amyloid-beta).

Longitudinal studies further affirm the relationship between elevated blood NfL levels and atrophy in brain regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

These elevated levels may appear even before changes in cortical atrophy are detectable, signaling early neurodegeneration related to Alzheimer’s.

Future Work and Limitations

Despite its promise, there are gaps in understanding the full scope and limitations of NfL as a biomarker.

“We need more studies to understand how blood NfL is related to different aspects of neuronal damage and other factors that may influence its concentration,” Jung noted.


The work by Jung and Damoiseaux suggests that blood NfL can serve as a helpful prognostic tool for neurodegeneration and as a risk assessment marker for Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings could have significant implications for early intervention strategies and the overall understanding of Alzheimer’s progression.

Jung is a doctoral student at Wayne State University’s Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience program, and Damoiseaux serves as an associate professor in the Institute of Gerontology and the Department of Psychology at Wayne State University.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease , and new non-drug treatment that could help prevent Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent Alzheimer’s, and results showing some dementia cases could be prevented by changing these 12 things.

The study was published in Brain.

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