Six New Grants Awarded by CFIDS Association

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DECEMBER 3, 2008
THE CFIDS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, INC.

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

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina—December 3, 2008.   The four million Americans who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have new reason for hope today with the announcement of an unprecedented research program to help identify biomarkers for the illness and improve diagnosis and treatment of CFS. The announcement was made by the Solve ME/CFS Initiative , which is funding the program, called the Accelerate CFS Research Initiative.

As part of this initiative, the Solve ME/CFS Initiative also announced today research grants totaling $647,940 to six research teams in the U.S. and Canada.

“These awards represent a new approach to CFS research,” said Suzanne Vernon, PhD, the Solve ME/CFS Initiative’s scientific director. “Instead of each investigator working in isolation, we are building a network of researchers and a framework for data sharing and collaboration not only among researchers who receive grants from the Solve ME/CFS Initiative, but among scientists worldwide.”

Vernon, a microbiologist who helped pioneer the application of genomics to CFS, is now working to pioneer this new CFS research network and to direct the Accelerate CFS Research Initiative.  “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 Vernon. “CFS, once shied away from by some researchers, is now considered a legitimate and challenging field of scientific inquiry.”

The grant recipients are:

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

The Accelerate CFS Research Initiative was made possible by the successful completion of a yearlong, million-dollar fundraising campaign, the largest research campaign for CFS to date in the United States. The Solve ME/CFS Initiative has funded more than $5.4 million in CFS research since 1987, making it second only to the federal government in CFS research spending.

“This was a real grassroots campaign, with most contributions coming not from major corporations or foundations, but from ordinary people whose lives have been affected by the illness,” said Kimberly McCleary, president and CEO of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative. “Patients, their family, friends and doctors stepped up to give donations large and small to fuel the research initiative.”

“While support from individual American citizens is vital for research progress,” McCleary noted, “more funding from the government, from biotech firms and from the pharmaceutical industry is desperately needed. CFS affects more Americans than many other well-known diseases, but receives far less research funding.”

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About the Solve ME/CFS Initiative

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative was founded in 1987 to stimulate high-quality CFS research, improve the ability of health care professionals to diagnose and manage the illness, provide educational information for patients and their families, and build widespread public awareness of CFS.  The organization has invested more than $26 million in research, education and public policy and is the largest charitable funder and advocate of CFS research in the U.S.

December 3, 2008