The CFIDS Association of America this week announced an unprecedented research initiative with the aim of identifying biomarkers for the disease to improve both diagnosis and treatment.
Following the successful completion of a yearlong, $1 million fundraising campaign, the CFIDS Association of America has announced the recipients of the first grants under their Accelerate CFS Research Initiative.
The research grants totaling $647,940 in funding were awarded to six teams of researchers in the US and Canada who will study a diverse range of factors thought to be involved with the disease process in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The initiative is the largest research drive for CFS so far in the United States. Second only to the US government in CFS research funding the CFIDS Association of America has funded research projects to the tune of $5.4 million since 1987.
The campaign is enabling us to develop a revitalized research program for CFS, said Kimberly McCleary, president and CEO of the CFIDS Association.
We were very impressed with the number and caliber of grant proposals we received this year, which signals a heightened level of interest in CFS research, said Suzanne Vernon, PhD, the CFIDS Associations scientific director.
"CFS, once shied away from by some researchers, is now considered a legitimate and challenging field of scientific inquiry."
And most of the grant recipients, while experts in their respective fields, are new to CFS research. Its critical to attract new investigators to CFS research in order to propel the field forward.
Vernon, a microbiologist who helped pioneer the application of genomics to CFS, says the Accelerate CFS Research Initiative will lead to routine communication and colloboration between international research teams working on CFS. This it is hoped, along with continued funding of new research, will accelerate the pace of new discoveries that will ultimately help the many millions of people around the world who suffer from this debilitating condition.
The Grant Recipients
Gordon Broderick, PhD, of the University of Alberta in Canada, who will study the immune and endocrine response in adolescent patients who became ill with CFS after contracting infectious mononucleosis, which is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. By studying patients from the time they get infectious mononucleosis to the development of CFS and through the first 24 months of illness, the researchers hope to identify disease progression biomarkers, including those essential for early diagnosis.
It has long be known that CFS often develops after a viral infection but the immune mechanisms for this are not yet well understood. Early diagnosis is essential in any disease as early implementation of treatment and lifestyle changes results in higher success rates.
Kathleen Light, PhD, of the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, who will investigate the mechanisms involved in chronic pain that afflicts 40%-70% of CFS patients. This study will determine whether receptors located on blood cells are increased and overactive in people with CFS and associated with increased pain sensitivity. Light theorizes that increases in specific receptors following exercise may be blood-based biomarkers for CFS and could lead to a medical test to identify CFS patients.
Marvin Medow, PhD, of New York Medical College, who will investigate how orthostatic intolerance, seen in many CFS patients, affects brain function. This study will examine if CFS patients have increased pooling of blood in the abdomen that results in reduced cerebral blood flow. Medow will also investigate physiologic and oxidative stress changes associated with disturbance in blood flow. These results will help determine if alterations in blood flow affect brain metabolism.
CFS patients commonly have low blood pressure and feel dizzy on standing as the mechanisms designed to maintain blood pressure in this situation don't appear to function correctly (orthostatic intolerance). These mechanisms involve both the nervous and endocrine systems.
Bhubaneswar Mishra, PhD, of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at NYU, who will use state-of-the-art bioinformatics and computational biology tools to create a computational model of CFS-a kind of "Google for CFS" that will be part database, part knowledge-base, part research network. This new resource will provide a "systems view" of CFS that accumulates published CFS literature and experimental data to disentangle complex relationships among reported findings and discover causes of CFS.
Sanjay Shukla, PhD, of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, who will use metagenomics to determine if the ratio of good to bad intestinal bacteria in CFS patients is altered, and whether this imbalance in gut bacteria may be responsible for triggering CFS symptoms. Recent advances in metagenomics have demonstrated the significance of altered gastrointestinal bacteria in illnesses like HIV, diabetes, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis. Shukla theorizes that CFS patients also have an imbalance of good and bad intestinal bacteria, resulting in enhanced intestinal permeability-called leaky gut-allowing bacteria to move across the protective intestinal barrier and causing chronic inflammation and immune activation in CFS patients. This study will contribute to our understanding of the relationship between the human microbiome and CFS. It may also lead to new treatment options, including the use of probiotics.
Small studies to date have indicated that alterations in gut flora (such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) ) and increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome, may be present in CFS. Shukla's work will seek to build on these studies using the latest techniques.
Dikoma Shungu, PhD, of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, who will use a brain scanning technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy to confirm earlier findings that brain fluid of CFS patients contains significantly elevated levels of lactate, a substance important in metabolism. Shungu's team will also investigate the reason for this phenomenon, exploring whether lactate levels are higher in CFS patients because their brains contain high levels of toxic compounds that cause a condition called oxidative stress (which could implicate chronic inflammation), or because mitochondrial dysfunction is causing malfunctions in the production of brain energy. If this study is successful, brain lactate levels could provide an objective diagnostic biomarker for CFS.
Much of the funding for this research came in the form of small donations from those directly affected by CFS including patients, their family member's, and their doctors.
CFS affects more people than many other well known conditions but receives less funding from both governmental and non-governmental sources according to the CFIDS Association of America. It is hoped the Accelerate CFS Research Initiative will provide doctors with better diagnostic and treatment tools for their CFS patients but the Association is also calling for more funding of research from government, biotech companies, and the pharmaceutical industry.
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Source: The CFIDS Association of America