(HealthDay News) – A protein released from damaged motor neurons, the phosphorylated neurofilament heavy subunit (pNF-H), may be a useful biomarker for disease activity and progression in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), according to a study published online Oct. 31 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

To determine whether pNF-H could be a useful biomarker in patients with ALS, Kevin B. Boylan, MD, from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL., and colleagues measured pNF-H levels in plasma (43 patients) and serum and cerebrospinal fluid (20 patients).

The researchers found a correlation between higher pNF-H levels in plasma, serum, and cerebrospinal fluid and faster decline on the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale. There was evidence of an association for higher pNF-H levels in serum and plasma and, to a lesser extent, cerebrospinal fluid with shorter survival. Patients with bulbar onset tended to have higher plasma pNF-H levels than patients with spinal onset.

“While the number of patients included in this study is relatively small, these data support continued study of pNF-H in plasma and serum, as well as cerebrospinal fluid as a potential biomarker of disease activity and progression in ALS,” Boylan and colleagues conclude.

One author disclosed receiving funding from several drug companies, while a second author is the owner and founder of EnCor Biotechnology, which markets the assay used in the study.

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