New research puts immune research and mitochondria in ME/CFS under the microscope | 14 May 2014

UK charities the ME Association and Action for M.E. announced this week that they will co-fund a biomedical research project to investigate immune responses in people Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), sometimes diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

The 16-month study, led by Prof Stephen Todryk, Professor of Immunology, Department of Applied Sciences, Northumbria University, will look at the way immune responses act, particularly against infections, in people with ME/CFS.

“Because many different known diseases also have fatigue as one of their symptoms, this suggests that several processes may come into play to cause it,” explained Prof Todryk.

“Uncontrolled immune responses appear to be important in fatigue, and infections – that’s viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites – are major initiators of immune responses, some of which are associated with ME/CFS.”

Currently there is no single diagnostic test for ME/CFS, or specific targeted pharmaceutical treatment.

“We want work out if those immune responses can be used to diagnose M.E./CFS, and if they can be targeted for treatment,” says Prof Todryk, who plans to recruit patients from the Newcastle NHS M.E./CFS services to take part in the study. Action for ME and the ME Association will split the £19,500 cost of this project.

Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, said:

“We are delighted to be co-funding this new research study into how the immune system is functioning in people with ME/CFS. This research will not only help to increase our understanding of immune system dysfunction in ME/CFS; it will also link in with some of the important new findings on immune function that were reported at the IACFS/ME conference in San Francisco in March.”

The ME Association will also be contributing £5,000 towards the £30,000 cost of a University of Newcastle investigation into whether people with ME/CFS have different patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation compared to healthy people.

Dr Joanna Elson, Mitochondrial Research Group, Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, who will lead the 18-month mitochondrial DNA study, explained:

“Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, and mitochondrial DNA provides the codes for proteins that are essential for energy production. We want to see if patients with M.E./CFS have different patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation that could affect a person’s chances of succumbing to ME/CFS, or act as a barrier to recovery.”

Sonya Chowdhury, chief executive officer at Action for M.E., said:

“We are very pleased to be able to collaborate with the ME Association on the funding of the immune responses project, and grateful for their donation to our mitochondrial DNA project. Working together in this way means that we can increase our capacity to help transform the lives of people affected by ME/CFS.”


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