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New Research Will Benefit Four Million Americans Suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Thursday, December 4, 2008 General News J E 4
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CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 3 The four million Americans whosuffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have new reason for hope today withthe announcement of an unprecedented research program to help identifybiomarkers for the illness and improve diagnosis and treatment of CFS. Theannouncement was made by the CFIDS Association of America, which is fundingthe program, called the Accelerate CFS Research Initiative.

As part of this initiative, the CFIDS Association also announced todayresearch grants totaling $647,940 to six research teams in the U.S. andCanada.

"These awards represent a new approach to CFS research," said SuzanneVernon, PhD, the CFIDS Association's scientific director. "Instead of eachinvestigator working in isolation, we are building a network of researchersand a framework for data sharing and collaboration not only among researcherswho receive grants from the CFIDS Association, but among scientistsworldwide."

Vernon, a microbiologist who helped pioneer the application of genomics toCFS, is now working to pioneer this new CFS research network and to direct theAccelerate CFS Research Initiative. "We were very impressed with the numberand caliber of grant proposals we received this year, which signals aheightened level of interest in CFS research," said Vernon. "CFS, once shiedaway from by some researchers, is now considered a legitimate and challengingfield of scientific inquiry."

The grant recipients are:

-- Gordon Broderick, PhD, of the University of Alberta in Canada, who willstudy the immune and endocrine response in adolescent patients who became illwith CFS after contracting infectious mononucleosis, which is caused by theEpstein-Barr virus. By studying patients from the time they get infectiousmononucleosis to the development of CFS and through the first 24 months ofillness, the researchers hope to identify disease progression biomarkers,including those essential for early diagnosis.

-- Kathleen Light, PhD, of the University of Utah Health Sciences Center,who will investigate the mechanisms involved in chronic pain that afflicts40%-70% of CFS patients. This study will determine whether receptors locatedon blood cells are increased and overactive in people with CFS and associatedwith increased pain sensitivity. Light theorizes that increases in specificreceptors following exercise may be blood-based biomarkers for CFS and couldlead to a medical test to identify CFS patients.

-- Marvin Medow, PhD, of New York Medical College, who will investigatehow orthostatic intolerance, seen in many CFS patients, affects brainfunction. This study will examine if CFS patients have increased pooling ofblood in the abdomen that results in reduced cerebral blood flow. Medow willalso investigate physiologic and oxidative stress changes associated withdisturbance in blood flow. These results will help determine if alterations inblood flow affect brain metabolism.

-- Bhubaneswar Mishra, PhD, of the Courant Institute of MathematicalSciences at NYU, who will use state-of-the-art bioinformatics andcomputational biology tools to create a computational model of CFS-a kind of"Google for CFS" that will be part database, part knowledge-base, partresearch network. This new resource will provide a "systems view" of CFS thataccumulates published CFS literature and experimental data to disentanglecomplex relationships among reported findings and discover causes of CFS.

-- Sanjay Shukla, PhD, of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, who willuse metagenomics to determine if the ratio of good to bad intestinal bacteriain CFS patients is altered, and whether this imbalance in gut bacteria may beresponsible for triggering CFS symptoms. Recent advances in metagenomics havedemonstrated the significance of altered gastrointestinal bacteria inillnesses like HIV, diabetes, Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease andulcerative colitis. Shukla theorizes that CFS patients also have an imbalanceof good and bad intestinal bacteria, resulting in enhanced intestinalpermeability-called leaky gut-allowing bacteria to move across the protectiveintestinal barrier and causing chronic inflammation and immune activation inCFS patients. This study will contribute to our understanding of therelationship between the human microbiome and CFS. It may also lead to newtreatment options, including the use of probiotics.

-- Dikoma Shungu, PhD, of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, whowill use a brain scanning technique called magnetic resonance spectroscopy toconfirm earlier findings that brain fluid of CFS patients containssignificantly elevated levels of lactate, a substance important in metabolism.Shungu's team will also investigate the reason for this phenomenon, exploringwhether lactate levels are higher in CFS patients because their brains containhigh levels of toxic compounds that cause a condition called oxidative stress(which could implicate chronic inflammation), or because mitochondrialdysfunction is causing malfunctions in the production of brain energy. If thisstudy is successful, brain lactate levels could provide an objectivediagnostic biomarker for CFS.

The Accelerate CFS Research Initiative was made possible by the successfulcompletion of a yearlong, million-dollar fundraising campaign, the largestresearch campaign for CFS to date in the United States. The CFIDS Associationhas funded more than $5.4 million in CFS research since 1987, making it secondonly to the federal government in CFS research spending.

"This was a real grassroots campaign, with most contributions coming notfrom major corporations or foundations, but from ordinary people whose liveshave been affected by the illness," said Kimberly McCleary, president and CEOof the CFIDS Association. "Patients, their family, friends and doctors steppedup to give donations large and small to fuel the research initiative."

"While support from individual American citizens is vital for researchprogress," McCleary noted, "more funding from the government, from biotechfirms and from the pharmaceutical industry is desperately needed. CFS affectsmore Americans than many other well-known diseases, but receives far lessresearch funding."

About the CFIDS Association of America

The CFIDS Association was founded in 1987 to stimulate high-quality CFSresearch, improve the ability of health care professionals to diagnose andmanage the illness, provide educational information for patients and theirfamilies, and build widespread public awareness of CFS. The organization hasinvested more than $26 million in research, education and public policy and isthe largest charitable funder and advocate of CFS research in the U.S.

To learn more about CFS, visit http://www.cfids.org/cfs andhttp://www.cdc.gov/cfs/cfsdiagnosis.htm

SOURCE CFIDS Association of America
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