Role of Chitinase 3-like 1 as a Biomarker in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Background and Objectives

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease confined in the CNS, and its course is frequently subtle and variable. Therefore, predictive biomarkers are needed. In this scenario, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the reliability of chitinase 3–like 1 as a biomarker of MS.


Research through the main scientific databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library) published from January 2010 to December 2020 was performed using the following keywords: “chitinase 3-like 1 and multiple sclerosis” and “YKL40 and multiple sclerosis.” Articles were selected according to the 2020 updated Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines by 2 authors independently, and data were extracted; 20 of the 90 studies screened were included in the meta-analysis. The main efficacy measure was represented by the standardized mean difference of CSF and blood CHI3L1 levels; Review Manager version 5.4 and R software applications were used for analysis.


Higher levels of CHI3L1 were found in CSF of 673 patients with MS compared with 336 healthy controls (size-weighted mean difference [SMD] 50.88; 95% CI = 44.98–56.79; p < 0.00001) and in 461 patients with MS than 283 patients with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) (SMD 28.18; 95% CI = 23.59–32.76; p < 0.00001). Mean CSF CHI3L1 levels were significantly higher in 561 converting than 445 nonconverting CIS (SMD 30.6; 95% CI = 28.31–32.93; p < 0.00001). CSF CHI3L1 levels were significantly higher in patients with primary progressive MS (PPMS) than in patients with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) (SMD 43.15; 95% CI = 24.41–61.90; p < 0.00001) and in patients with secondary progressive MS (SMD 41.86 with 95% CI = 32.39–51.33; p < 0.00001). CSF CHI3L1 levels in 407 patients with MS during remission phase of disease were significantly higher than those in 395 patients with MS with acute relapse (SMD 10.48; 95% CI = 08.51–12.44; p < 0.00001). The performances of CHI3L1 in blood for differentiating patients with MS from healthy controls were not significant (SMD 0.48; 95% CI = –1.18 to 2.14; p: 0.57).


CSF levels of CHI3L1 have a strong correlation with the MS pathologic course, in particular with the mechanism of progression of the disease; it helps to distinguish the PPMS from the RRMS. The potential role of CHI3L1 in serum needs to be further studied in the future.

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