The Emerge Media and Research Digest (022) 3rd May 2019

Friday 3rd May 2019
Latest news and research on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


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1 – A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for myalgic encaphalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
Authors: R. Esfandyarpour, A. Kashi, M. Nemat-Gorgani, J. Wilhelmy, & R. W. Davis

A new study from Stanford University has developed a nano-electronic assay – or a nanoneedle – that can detect changes in electrical signals to identify people with ME/CFS. The study recruited 20 people diagnosed with ME/CFS and 20 healthy controls.

Researchers took a sample of plasma from each participant, and added salt to mimic stress as the cell needs to use energy to pump the salt out. The researchers found that when salt was added to the plasma of those with ME/CFS, there was a clear spike in electrical signals. Conductivity in the blood of healthy controls remained level. The spike in electrical signal demonstrates an extreme stress response to the salt.

The findings of this study are significant as all 20 of those with ME/CFS had spiked electrical signals, and all 20 of the healthy controls remained level. This shows a clear distinction between those with ME/CFS and healthy controls. The next steps for the researchers is to recruit a larger cohort of both people with ME/CFS and healthy controls to test the technology on a large scale.

If you would like to check out a video of Professor Ron Davis speaking about the research, you can do so here:

2  – The ‘cognitive behavioural model’ of chronic fatigue syndrome: Critique of a flawed model
Authors: K. Geraghty, L. Jason, M. Sunnquist, D. Tuller, et al.

A new paper critiques the use of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a form of treatment for ME/CFS. The review finds that a cognitive behavioural model (CBM) has no high-quality evidential support, and does not acknowledge the mounting biological evidence of physiological and pathological abnormalities found in patients.

The review begins by providing the background to CBT as a form of treatment for depression. The authors review multiple studies that describe ME/CFS as a complex illness that can be explained through a multi-factorial cognitive behavioural model.

The authors provide an overview of the problematic evidence from clinical trials and practice that have used CBT as a treatment. The review finds that a number of participants in the studies that return to ‘perfect’ health post treatment reported present or past psychiatric illness, along with a diagnosis of ME/CFS. Recent studies counter the use of CBT as an effective treatment, with one study noting that 94.3% of patients sent to CBT centres still reported ME/CFS symptoms post treatment. Overall the review exposes weaknesses, inconsistencies and contradictions, both in the theoretical underpinnings of CBT as a treatment for ME/CFS, and the research that supposedly proves the validity of the model.

3 – Something in the blood
Author: S. McGrath

This review by Simon McGrath summarises papers from four independent research groups that have all found a factor in the blood affecting cell metabolism/mitochondria. These research papers all describe exosomes which transfer molecules from one cell to another, although many details of their role remains unclear. Further studies are required, however the author believes this could lead to an important step in understanding the aetiology of ME/CFS.

The summary is written in plain English, and each piece is no longer than a few paragraphs in length.

4 – Accelerating research on ME/CFS meeting

Authors: National Institutes for Health (NIH)
Link 1:
Link 2:

A research conference held by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in April aimed to bring together NIH researchers and ME/CFS research centres in one room to accelerate research on ME/CFS. Throughout the 2-day conference, emphasis was placed on the lack of funding for research into ME/CFS, and how there is a perceived lack of appeal for new researchers to join the field.

The conference focused on research from multiple fields including genomics, metabolomics, metabolism, immunology, microbiome, and brain imaging.

Interesting points and findings from the meeting include:

  • Immunologist Derya Unutmaz, MD, who found immune system disturbances in patients with ME/CFS, particularly in CD8 cells and T-helper 17 cells, which are involved in tissue inflammation.
  • W. Ian Lipkin, MD, who found that faecal samples from patients had low levels of bacteria that produce butyrate. Butyrate is important for controlling immune system function.
  • Professor Jonas Bergquist, PhD, from Sweden, found significantly elevated levels of neuroinflammatory biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid of ME/CFS patients.
  • Jarred W. Younger, PhD, revealed metabolite and temperature abnormalities in several brain regions of ME/CFS patients
  • Virologist Jose G. Montoya emphasised the mounting evidence of immune dysfunctions of ME/CFS patients and for clinicians to look beyond traditional tests which usually return normal results for patients with ME/CFS.

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