The Emerge Media and Research Digest (021) 19th April 2019

Friday 19th April 2019
Latest news and research on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


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1 – Evidence of clinical pathology abnormalities in people with ME/CFS from an analytic cross-sectional study
Authors: Luis Nacul, Barbara de Barros, Caroline Kingdon, et al.

In this recent study based on UK ME/CFS Biobank (UKMEB) laboratory tests, samples were gathered from 272 people with ME/CFS along with 136 healthy controls. These samples were examined for potential haematological and biochemical markers for ME/CFS, and disease severity.

The study found that people with ME/CFS had lower serum creatine kinase levels (an enzyme found in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle) than in the healthy controls. It also found that those severely affected by ME/CFS had significantly lower levels than those with mild to moderate ME/CFS. Creatinine and bilirubin were also found to be significantly lower in those severely affected, in comparison to mild to moderate patients.

The results from the study suggest that serum creatine kinase merits further investigation as a potential biomarker for severe ME/CFS diagnosis.

2  – ME/CFS targeted project grant for an Australia biobank
The Mason Foundation

The Mason Foundation, which has historically funded a large proportion of ME/CFS research in Australia, has recently announced funding for a biobank and/or patient registry. The announcement states that funding of $200,000 per year over five years is available for this project.

Mason Foundation says that the goal of the foundation is to “achieve enduring, positive impact in the areas of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease through funding medical research principally into the causes, prevention and/or management of these diseases.”

”To deliver on this goal into the future, the Mason Foundation believes it is necessary to build the capacity and scale of the ME/CFS research sector in Australia. Supporting the establishment and operation of an ME/CFS biobank and/or patient registry has been identified as a key means of achieving this aim.”

Expressions of interest (EOI) are due by the end of April.

3 – Cellular immune function in Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
Authors: Jacqueline M. Cliff, Elizabeth C. King, Ji-Sook Lee, et al.

A recent study has found an increased number of a particular subtype of T cell – called muscosal associated invariant T cell (MAIT) – in severely affected ME/CFS patients, compared to healthy controls. Increased levels of MAIT cells are observed in healthy individuals following exercise. This observation leads to the theory that people affected by ME/CFS display a post-exercise state when at rest. The authors suggest it is possible that increased levels of MAIT cells when at rest can be attributed to changes in the gut microbiome.

The study also investigated the presence of antibodies against six different Herpes viruses in the blood, including the Epstein-Barr virus, in 251 people diagnosed with ME/CFS, and 107 healthy controls. Results found that there was no difference between ME/CFS patients and healthy controls.

Interestingly, the authors found that – contrary to previous reports – there were no differences in proportions of Natural Killer cells (also called NK cells which is a white blood cell), their differentiation status, their expression of KIR receptors or of activation markers ex vivo or following in vitro stimulation between people diagnosed with ME/CFS and healthy controls.

4 – ME/CFS Alert – Interview with Sadie Whittaker, Solve ME/CFS Initiative Chief Scientific Officer

In this episode, the host of ME/CFS Alert, Llewellyn King, interviews Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SCMI) Chief Scientific Officer Sadie Whittaker. Llewellyn and Sadie first discuss Sadie’s position at SMCI, as well as the purpose of the initiative. They then go on to discuss the lack of awareness and complexity surrounding ME/CFS.

Sadie discusses the opportunity of using big data to discover the causes of ME/CFS, as well as the possibility of aggregating big data to start to unravel the complex nature of the condition. Finally Llewellyn and Sadie discuss the enormous effort required from research in order to ‘solve ME/CFS’.

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