New Technology Enables Novel Use of Brain Biomarker in Multiple Sclerosis


Assessment of neurofilament light chain levels offers real-time, efficient measure marker of multiple sclerosis progression.

A new technology allows researchers to use brain biomarker neurofilament light chain (NfL) to uncover insights into the development and progression of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

Quanterix Corporation’s ultra-sensitive Simoa assay technology equips researchers with the sensitivity needed to accurately assess the biomarker, allowing them to efficiently measure NfL blood levels. The company announced its technology’s potential to advance the early detection, treatment, and prevention of neurological diseases.

“Using Simoa, researchers are now, for the first time, able to measure NfL in blood, vastly expanding the number of breadth of studies possible and providing insights into disease progression, patient response and drug performance, and accelerating drug development that was never possible before,” Quanterix CEO, president, and chairman Kevin Hrusovosky said in a statement.

NfL has recently emerged as a biofluid marker reflecting neuro-axonal damage, a key factor in the development of permanent disability in MS. Studies have suggested that blood levels of NfL can be used to detect MS activity and monitor disease progression.

A paper recently published in Brain reported higher levels of serum NfL present in patients with MS compared with healthy counterparts. The study authors used the Simoa assay technology to detect NfL levels in 259 patients with MS, including 70 with progressive disease, and an equal number of healthy individuals. They followed the patients for a median of 6.5 years.

The researchers found that high serum NfL chain correlated with concurrent and future clinical and MRI measures of disease activity and severity. Higher serum NfL levels were also associated with more pronounced future brain and spinal cord volume loss on MRIs, according to the study.

“Neurofilament light chain levels are a real-time, easy to measure marker of neuro-axonal injury that is conceptually more comprehensive than brain MRI,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Using NfL as a biomarker for disease progression can also advance the development of new treatments, allowing researchers to monitor changes to the disease shortly after administering a drug to more quickly assess its effect, according to the press release.

In addition to serving as a predictor of MS activity, the biomarker also has several other potential neurological applications, including for the diagnosis of concussions, Huntington disease, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and brain cancer.

“Biomarkers like NfL can change the practice of medicine, enabling us to catch diseases earlier, identify impactful treatment methods faster, and check to ensure a drug is having the desired impact,” Hrusovosky concluded.


Simoa Technology Unlocks Insights From Previously Obscure Biomarker [news release]. Quanterix’s website. Accessed August 9, 2018.

Barro C, Benkert P, Disanto G, et al. Serum neurofilament as a predictor of disease worsening and brain and spinal cord atrophy in multiple sclerosis. Brain. 2018.

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