Biomedical research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is finding a growing number of abnormalities affecting multiple systems in the body. However, there are great variations in how many of these are seen in each individual.
It is looking likely that in time different types of the illness will be defined, or even separated into distinct illness definitions. Research is already beginning to uncover various “bio-markers”.
Hope for treatments and a cure
There are several research avenues where there are glimmers of hope that effective treatments will be developed or even a cure one day. This will require a lot more funding for research. At the moment ME/CFS receives a lot less funding than illnesses of similar prevalence and impact.
Research findings include:
- Three types of brain abnormality including reduced white matter, an abnormal right arcuate fasciculus and a strong correlation between this and the severity of illness.
- So far, cancer drug Rituximab seems to be causing long-term remission in about two-thirds of people with ME/CFS trials in Norway have reached phase III.Neuro-inflammation.
- Immunological findings.
- Serial exercise tests showing a dramatic drop in exercise capacity 24 hours after initial exercise.
These findings are part of ongoing research.
More details below.
Lay Person’s Articles and Commentary
Genetic abnormalities related to immunological and cellular function
Researchers from Griffith University’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) — part of the new Menzies Health Institute Queensland — have uncovered significant factors contributing to the pathology of this illness.
The results reveal genetic changes in important receptors associated with immunological and cellular function and contribute to the development of this complex illness.
3 types of brain abnormality.
Radiology Researchers Find Brain Abnormalities in ME/CFS 2014 http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/10/study-finds-brain-abnormalities-in-chronic-fatigue-patients.html
3 types of brain abnormality including reduced white matter, an abnormal right arcuate fasciculus and a strong correlation between this and the severity of illness.
Neuroinflammation in Patients with CFS/ME 2014 http://www.riken.jp/en/pr/press/2014/20140404_1/
US scientists claim ‘robust evidence’ that ME/CFS is a biological illness | Columbia University press release | 27 February 2015
Click on the link to read the full paper: Distinct plasma immune signatures in ME/CFS are present early in the course of illness
Researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health identified distinct immune changes in patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, known medically as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS).
These immune signatures represent the first robust physical evidence that ME/CFS is a biological illness as opposed to a psychological disorder, and the first evidence that the disease has distinct stages.
Results appear online in the new American Association for the Advancement of Science journal,Science Advances.
Repeat Test Reveals Dramatic Drop in ME/CFS Exercise Capacity http://phoenixrising.me/archives/17902
Ongoing and Upcoming Research
Rituximab – a cancer drug.
Phase I and phase II trials have observed long-term remission in about two-thirds of people with ME/CFS.
UPCOMING: The Phase III trial: results expected to be published during 2018. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02229942
A Metabolic Switch?
New Scientist reports on further research by Øystein Fluge of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, this time looking at abnomalities in the body’s metabolism. See the article.
Published Research Papers:
Examination of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) Ion Channels in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients
Background: The transient receptor potential (TRP) superfamily in humans comprises 27 cation channels with permeability to monovalent and divalent cations. These channels are widely expressed within humans on cells and tissues and have significant sensory and regulatory roles on most physiological functions. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an unexplained disorder with multiple physiological impairments.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine the role of TRPs in CFS.
Methods: The study comprised 115 CFS patients (age = 48.68 ± 1.06 years) and 90 nonfatigued controls (age = 46.48 ± 1.22 years). CFS patients were defined according to the 1994 Center for Disease Prevention and Control criteria for CFS. A total of 240 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for 21 mammalian TRP ion channel genes (TRPA1, TRPC1, TRPC2, TRPC3, TRPC4, TRPC6, TRPC7, TRPM1, TRPM2, TRPM3, TRPM4, TRPM5, TRPM6, TRPM7, TRPM8, TRPV1, TRPV2, TRPV3, TRPV4, TRPV5, and TRPV6) were examined via the Agena Biosciences iPLEX Gold assay. Statistical analysis was performed using the PLINK analysis software.
Results: Thirteen SNPs were significantly associated with CFS patients compared with the controls. Nine of these SNPs were associated with TRPM3 (rs12682832; P ≤ 0.003, rs11142508; P < 0.004, rs1160742; P < 0.08, rs4454352; P ≤ 0.013, rs1328153; P ≤ 0.013, rs3763619; P ≤ 0.014, rs7865858; P ≤ 0.021, rs1504401; P ≤ 0041, rs10115622; P ≤ 0.050), while the remainder were associated with TRPA1 (rs2383844; P ≤ 0.040, rs4738202; P ≤ 0.018) and TRPC4 (rs6650469; P ≤ 0.016, rs655207; P ≤ 0.018).
Conclusion: The data from this pilot study suggest an association between TRP ion channels, predominantly TRPM3 and CFS. This and other TRPs identified may contribute to the etiology and pathomechanism of CFS.
Abnormalities of AMPK Activation and Glucose Uptake in Cultured Skeletal Muscle Cells from Individuals with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0122982
Neuroinflammation in Patients with CFS/ME 2014 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24665088
Phase II Rituximab Trial suggests CFS is an autoimmune disease 2011 http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0026358
Repeat Test Reveals Dramatic Drop in ME/CFS Exercise Capacity ‘Discriminative validity of metabolic and workload measurements for identifying people with chronic fatigue syndrome.’
Loss of capacity to recover from acidosis on repeat exercise in chronic fatigue syndrome: a case-control study. 2011 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21749371
Deficient EBV-Specific B- and T-Cell Response in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0085387