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Francisco Westermeier

“Unraveling Endothelial Function in ME/CFS”

Principal Investigator: Francisco Westermeier (PhD)
FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences, Austria

Collaborators: Nandu Gowami (MD, PHD), Nuno Sepulveda (PhD), Monika Riederer (PhD), Bernhard Wagner (PhD), Jennifer Blauensteiner (PhD)

Dr. Francisco Westermeier, PhD, from the FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences in Austria, has experience in diabetes research and in the study of the renal and cardiovascular systems. Dr. Westermeier and a collaborative group of researchers that includes Dr. Nuno Sepulveda from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine want to know if inflammation is impacting cardiovascular function in people with ME/CFS. They will measure the health and function of the endothelium – cells lining the entire cardiovascular system that are responsible for controlling normal blood flow and adequate oxygen supply to all tissues in the body. These clinical measures will be correlated with inflammatory markers in the blood that are linked to endothelial dysfunction.

“Over the last 10 years, I have been interested in understanding the mechanisms by which diabetes and obesity negatively impact endothelial function. Considering these detrimental conditions have been associated with metabolic and immunological abnormalities as well as described in ME/CFS, our Ramsay research team conformed to carried out this project expect to contribute with its expertise and perspective from other fields to explore in depth the endothelial function in ME/CFS. In Austria, this syndrome is still poorly recognized and often-misunderstood in part due to the lack of funding and research. Therefore, this pilot study recently funded by the Ramsay Program will allow us to continue our research line which aims to elucidate whether endothelial dysfunction is a hidden piece in this complex pathophysiological puzzle.”  – Francisco Westermeier

Collaborators (left to right): Monika Riederer, Francisco Westermeier, Jennifer Blauensteiner

Read the research team’s study abstract below:

 

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a multi-organ disease that affects at least 17-24 million people worldwide. ME/CFS is mainly characterized by recurrent or persistent exhaustion not improved by rest, cognitive impairment, and chronic pain which can worsen after performing even minor mental or physical effort. Although the exact cause of this syndrome is still unknown, there is accumulating evidence that some patients with ME/CFS show disturbances of the immune system, where chronic inflammation seems to be linked to their symptoms. In several known pathologies, inflammation is known to affect the cardiovascular system via the endothelial function, which is responsible for controlling the normal blood flow and adequate oxygen supply to all tissues in the body. The endothelial function is primarily dependent on the production of nitric oxide (NO) by the endothelial cells which form a thin membrane that line the entire cardiovascular system, from the heart to the smallest blood vessels. Despite its well-established physiological relevance, no thorough study has so far evaluated endothelial function in patients with ME/CFS. In addition, given the pivotal function exerted by the endothelial cells and their ubiquity presence in the body, one can posit the question: could the multi-organ abnormalities found in ME/CFS patients be also a consequence of defective endothelial function? To answer this question, the proposed study aims to evaluate the mechanisms that control the endothelial-dependent NO production using experimental strategies and innovative approaches. This study has the potential of understanding the endothelial function in ME/CFS and how it can be improved in the clinic. It also hopes to understand whether features of endothelial dysfunction can be used as a putative biomarkers for disease diagnostic and prognosis.