Analysis of neurofilament concentration in healthy adult horses and utility in the diagnosis of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis and equine motor neuron disease
Abstract Neurofilaments (NFs) are structural proteins of neurons that are released in significant quantities in the cerebrospinal fluid and blood as a result of neuronal degeneration or axonal damage. Therefore, NFs have potential as biomarkers for neurologic disorders. Neural degeneration increases with age and has the potential to confound the utility of NFs as biomarkers in the diagnosis of neurologic disorders. We investigated this relationship in horses with and without neurological diagnosis. While controlling for horse type (draft, pleasure, and racing), we evaluated the relationship between serum heavy-chain phosphorylated neurofilaments (pNF-H) and age, sex, and serum vitamin E concentrations. Serum pNF-H concentrations increased by 0.002 ng/ml for each year increase in age. There were significant differences in the serum pNF-H concentration among the type of activity performed by the horse. The highest serum pNF-H concentration was found in horses performing heavy work activity (racehorse) and with lower serum pNF-H concentration found among light (pleasure riding) and moderate (draft) activity. There was no significant association between the pNF-H concentration and sex or vitamin E concentration. Serum pNF-H concentration was elevated among horses afflicted with EMND and EPM when compared with control horses without evidence of neurologic disorders. Accordingly, serum pNF-H concentration can serve as a useful biomarker to complement the existing diagnostic work-up of horses suspected of having EPM or EMND.