Research Digest – August 2014: More Results from the SolveCFS BioBank

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative established the SolveCFS BioBank in 2010.  Over the past 4 years clinical information and samples from the first 240 ME/CFS patients and 87 controls have been used by more than ten researchers – most new to ME/CFS research.   Right after we established the SolveCFS BioBank, Science magazine published the results that described a new virus in ME/CFS patients called XMRV.  This research caught the attention of many scientists and the pharmaceutical industry – immediately investigators needed samples to try to further these XMRV results.

The timing was perfect for the then-new SolveCFS BioBank.  In collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and four expert ME/CFS physicians, the SolveCFS BioBank collected information and samples from ME/CFS patients and healthy controls.  We are pleased to now report the publication of this SolveCFS BioBank “founding” study and some of the results from the first study of epigenetics in ME/CFS. Both used the clinical information and samples that were collected in 2010 through the SolveCFS BioBank.


The study that helped us establish the SolveCFS BioBank titled No association found between the detection of either xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) or polytropic murine leukemia virus and chronic fatigue syndrome in a blinded, multi-site, prospective study by the establishment and use of the SolveCFS BioBank was recently published in the open access journal BMC Research Notes. The authors are from GSK, the Solve ME/CFS Initiative and several ME/CFS clinics – a great example of partnership and collaboration.  Like the many studies that have been published following the initial description of XMRV in ME/CFS, this research also found that the XMRV was found in both ME/CFS patients and healthy controls.  XMRV was detected in 6.7% (5/72) of ME/CFS patients and 5.4% (2/37) healthy controls.  Since these detection rates were so similar, it indicated that XMRV was a contaminant rather than a virus associated with the disease.  By comparing the XMRV detected here to the XMRV described in other studies, it was clear that XMRV was a contaminant from a reagent(s) used in the laboratory test. The finding that XMRV is a “contaminant” in the reagents we use in these very sensitive laboratory tests was an important discovery and has improved the way we test for viruses and interpret results.  This study was also the only one related to XMRV that used a biobank and collaborated with a patient-centered research organization.
You can read the full text of this open access article here:



Wilfred de Vega, PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and his mentor Dr. Patrick McGowan together with Suzanne D. Vernon, scientific director of the Solve ME/CFS Initiative and the SolveCFS BioBank conducted the first ME/CFS epigenetic study. The results have just recently been published in the open access and highly regarded journal PLOS ONE.  The title of this paper is “DNA methylation modifications associated with chronic fatigue syndrome”.  Methylation modifies DNA without changing the genetic sequence and this chemical change affects the way the gene is expressed.  Lots of methylation corresponds to less gene expression – possibly even silencing the gene; less or no methylation corresponds to increased expression.  de Vega and his team found genes important for the immune response had different methylation patterns in ME/CFS patients compared to matched healthy controls.  Many of the methylation differences were in parts of the gene important for regulating gene expression.  These novel findings provide further evidence of immune response abnormalities contributing to ME/CFS pathophysiology.
You can read the full text of this open access article here:

Read more about this study in a recent blog post HERE 

And watch McGowan’s webinar on this topic HERE