Elevated levels of neurofilament light chain (NfL) are a known biomarker for neurodegeneration in conditions such as stroke, dementia, Multiple sclerosis, and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. A new study reveals that NfL may also be a risk marker for the onset of cardiac disease. Circulating NfL levels were found to be associated with future risk of all cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and heart failure, but only in minimally adjusted models. To determine whether NfL is a risk marker for future cardiovascular disease, participants of the community-based Framingham Heart Study Offspring and OMNI1 cohorts had their plasma NfL levels determined using a high-sensitivity, single-molecule array. In the years that followed (mean±SD of 5.5±1.6 years) these NfL levels were related to the incidence of cardiovascular disease and its individual components (coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, angina, and claudication). All models were adjusted for age, sex, and cohort. From the 2 cohorts, 2,048 participants were included in the analysis. Mean age was 69 (±8 SD) years, and 58% were women. During the study period (2011–2019), there were 175 (8.5%) incident cardiovascular events. No association was found between higher plasma NfL levels and stroke, which occurred in 60 participants (HR=1.00; 95% CI 0.56–1.78). However, higher plasma NfL level was associated with an increased risk of:

  • coronary heart disease (n=67; HR=1.56, 95% CI 1.00–2.41);
  • heart failure (n=91; HR=1.67, 95%CI 1.13–2.47);
  • cardiovascular disease (HR=1.43, 95% CI 1.05-1.95).

After the models were further adjusted for renal function, body mass index, race, current smoking, diabetes, systolic blood pressure, antihypertensive treatment, and high-density lipoprotein level, these associations were no longer significant. The authors added that further research is done to find out which of the adjusted risk factors attenuate the association between NfL and cardiac risk.

  1. Aparicio H, et al. Association of Plasma NfL Levels with Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in the Framingham Heart Study. S33.005, AAN 2022, 2–7 April.

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