Published on Thu Oct 07 2021

Correlation between leukocyte phenotypes and prognosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a longitudinal cohort study

Cui, C., Ingre, C., Yin, L., Li, X., Andersson, J., Seitz, C., Ruffin, N., Pawitan, Y., Piehl, F., Fang, F.

Immune response changes have been reported in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but their clinical relevance remains undetermined. We aim to evaluate the relationships between blood leukocyte subpopulations and prognosis of ALS. A longitudinal cohort of 288 ALS patients with up to 5 years of follow-up during 2015-2020 were recruited at the only tertiary referral center for ALS in Stockholm, Sweden.

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Abstract

Background: Immune response changes have been reported in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), but their clinical relevance remains undetermined. Therefore, we aim to evaluate the relationships between blood leukocyte subpopulations and prognosis of ALS.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort of 288 ALS patients with up to 5 years of follow-up during 2015-2020 were recruited at the only tertiary referral center for ALS in Stockholm, Sweden. Routine differential leukocyte counts, and determination of lymphocyte subpopulations including an extended T cell panel with flow cytometry, collected at diagnosis and at regular intervals thereafter. The primary outcome was risk of death (alternatively use of invasive ventilation) after diagnosis of ALS. The secondary outcomes included repeatedly measured functional status - through Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Functional Rating Scale-revised (ALSFRS-R) score and disease progression rate. Cox model was used to evaluate the associations between leukocytes and risk of death. Generalized estimating equation model (GEE) was used to assess the correlation between leukocytes and ALSFRS-R score
and disease progression rate.
Results: The counts of leukocytes, neutrophils and monocytes increased gradually over time since diagnosis and were negatively correlated with ALSFRS-R score, but not associated with risk of death or disease progression rate. Focusing on lymphocyte subpopulations, increasing counts of natural killer (NK) cells (HR=0.61, 95% CI= [0.42-0.88] per SD increase) and proportions of Th2-diffrentiated CD4+ central memory (CM) T cells (HR=0.64, 95% CI= [0.48-0.85] per SD increase) were correlated with a lower risk of death. Increasing proportions of CD4+ effector memory cells re-expressing CD45RA (EMRA) T cells (HR=1.39, 95% CI= [1.01-1.92] per SD increase) and CD8+ T cells (HR=1.38, 95% CI= [1.03-1.86] per SD increase) were associated with a higher risk of death. None of the lymphocyte subpopulations was correlated with ALSFRS-R score or disease progression rate.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest a dual role of immune responses in ALS prognosis, where neutrophils and monocytes primarily reflect functional status whereas NK cells and different T lymphocyte populations act as prognostic markers for survival.