Japan Trip to Focus on Research and Collaboration

By Suzanne Vernon, PhD, Scientific Director

Many of us are aware of the remarkable CFS research effort led by Drs. Hirohito Kuratsune and Yasuyoshi Watanabe in Japan since the early 1990s. At the IACFS/ME conference last year in Florida, it was easy to see how Japan’s leadership, government support and recognition of CFS is helping this small country accumulate fatigue science and knowledge at an unprecedented rate. Just last year Japanese investigators published more than 15 papers on research into viral infections, marker genes, neurotransmitter activity, serum testing, sleep disturbance and more.

In April, I’ll travel to Osaka, Japan, with CFIDS Association president & CEO Kim McCleary and Dr. Katherine Rowe of the University of Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital to meet for two days with Watanabe, Kuratsune and the faculty of Osaka University Medical School and RIKEN Imaging Center in Kobe.

Our first day will include a visit to the hospital that houses their fatigue clinic, where we’ll discuss how Japanese researchers and physicians define fatigue and CFS. We also hope to get the latest information on CFS diagnostic tools like near infrared spectroscopy and on nutritional and pharmaceutical treatments the Japanese are researching. Our second day will be spent at the RIKEN Imaging Center with investigators from the Molecular Imaging Research Program. This new institute opened in April 2007, so we’ll be among the first guests to learn about this research and how the Japanese are using visualization of molecular function and dynamics to understand CFS.

My job as scientific director for the Solve ME/CFS Initiative includes helping to build strong collaborations with CFS researchers in the U.S. and other countries and organizing opportunities for scientists to share ideas and information that will advance the field of knowledge about this illness. That makes these first meetings with Japanese researchers very exciting for me personally and scientifically. Stay tuned for the trip report coming to you in the May 2008 CFIDSLink.

Suzanne Vernon, PhD, is the Association’s scientific director. She has nearly two decades of experience as a microbiologist.

March 3, 2008