‘New research into causes of debilitating condition’, University of Newcastle press release, 21 December 2011

Press release issued by the University of Newcastle, 21 December 2011.

Nearly £1 million has been awarded for research at Newcastle University into chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded £900,000 to Professor Julia Newton and Dr Fai Wan Ng for research into the causes of the debilitating condition chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME).

The investment will fund new projects to investigate the mechanisms and underlying biological processes involved in the illness, which could eventually lead to better diagnosis and the development of more effective treatments.

CFS/ME is a complex and debilitating condition that affects around 250,000 people in the UK, including children. Symptoms include profound physical and mental fatigue, muscle and joint pain, disturbed sleep patterns and concentration and memory problems. The combination and severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient, making it a difficult condition to diagnose and treat.

Professor Newton said: “I am delighted that Newcastle University has been awarded two of the five successful applications. These prestigious awards will underpin the high quality research we are carrying out here in the North East and will help us further understand the causes and consequences of CFS/ME. This is great news for researchers with an interest in CFS/ME and for patients who suffer from this terrible disease.”

Professor Stephen Holgate, Chair of the MRC’s Population and Systems Medicine Board, added: “There is a pressing need to understand the causes of CFS/ME, and the MRC is delighted to announce substantial funding to address this. The quality and breadth of the scientific proposals we received in response to our funding call exceeded expectations and led to us funding more studies than we had originally anticipated. We hope the awards will drive forward the research agenda in this area, paving the way for new diagnostic tools and treatments.”

Dr Charles Shepherd, member of the MRC CFS/ME Expert Group and trustee of the ME Association, also welcomed the award, saying patients would be particularly interested in research involving biomarkers/biological fingerprints, which could lead to more effective forms of treatment.

(adapted from MRC press release)

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