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Abstract A biomarker specific for the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis must be sensitive across a spectrum of clinical heterogeneity. Neurofilament light chain levels in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis correlate with the rate of disability progression. Previous attempts to establish a diagnostic role for neurofilament light chain have been limited to comparison with healthy individuals or controls with alternative diagnoses unlikely to be confused with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in real-world clinical practice. In a tertiary amyotrophic lateral sclerosis referral clinic, first visit serum was taken for neurofilament light chain measurement after prospectively recording the clinical diagnosis as: ‘amyotrophic lateral sclerosis’, ‘primary lateral sclerosis’, ‘alternative’ or ‘currently uncertain’. Of 133 referrals, 93 patients were diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (median neurofilament light chain 218.1 pg/ml, interquartile range 130.7-311.9), 3 primary lateral sclerosis (65.6, 51.5-106.9) and 19 alternative diagnoses (45.2, 13.5-71.9) at first visit. Of 18 initially uncertain diagnoses, 8 were subsequently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (98.5, 45.3-300.1). Neurofilament light chain ≥110.9 pg/ml had a positive predictive value of 0.92 for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;  < 110.9 pg/mL had a negative predictive value of 0.48. In a specialised clinic, neurofilament light chain is largely confirmatory to clinical judgement in diagnosing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and has limited ability to exclude alternative diagnoses. The current, important, value of neurofilament light chain is its potential to stratify patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis by disease activity and as a biomarker in therapeutic trials.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Communications


Oxford University Press (OUP)

Publication Date