This is by no means a comprehensive summary of all ME/CFS research reported this spring - thankfully, that keeps growing and is too much for me to include all in one post - but I've included a few choice studies that have been released recently that might change things for ME/CFS patients and/or lead to important breakthroughs.
First, some great resources for keeping up-to-date on what's happening in the ME/CFS research world - this is where I usually get my information:
- OMF Science Wednesday - a newish feature from ME/CFS research giant Open Medicine Foundation which features updates on many of the research projects they are working on, introductions to new scientists on their team, and other news. You can also sign up for OMF's e-mail newsletter (I get this, too) and "like" their Facebook page to get additional updates. Some of their updates are short videos from the researchers, in case you have difficulty reading and prefer to get information that way.
- I also rely on the Research 1st newsletter from Solve ME/CFS, another e-mail that includes updates of the many ongoing and new research projects funded by Solve ME/CFS.
- In the UK, the ME Association also publishes summaries and updates of their ongoing research studies. You can receive a copy of their magazine, and - exciting news! - they have a new podcast, The ME Show, that you can listen and subscribe to.
- One of the oldest e-mail newsletters on ME/CFS news (including research news) is Co-Cure. Though their website is no longer available, you can sign up for the Co-Cure newsletter or search through its archives here. This is often the first place that I hear about a new study or publication of research results.
- Science for ME offers weekly News in Brief reports that you can read here or you can sign up to receive the news briefs via e-mail on this page (upper right corner).
So, some of the latest big updates from the ME/CFS research world include:
- Scientists Discover Promising "Off-Switch" for Inflammatory Diseases - Although ME/CFS is not specifically mentioned in this article, this joint study by American, Irish, and British scientists is important for ME/CFS patients. It is now well-understood that ME/CFS is a disease characterized by high levels of inflammation which contribute to many of our symptoms. So, this new research that found a potential "off-switch," a biochemical made by the body called itaconate, could lead to an important treatment approach for us.
- Infection Elicited Autoimmunity and ME/CFS: An Explanatory Model - This study conducted by a team of Swedish and Libyan scientists proposes a model to explain the process that initiates and sustains ME/CFS, based on other recent studies of the disease that have been reported. Their theory involves an infectious trigger and a cascade of immune dysfunction effects, leading to problems with endocrine dysfunction, energy production, orthostatic intolerance, and more. We need this kind of scientific study that pulls together the wide variety of research occurring in different fields to propose models that explain the disease as a whole - only by understanding its genesis and how it is sustained can we hope to figure out how to stop the process.
- Exercise Elevates Blood Signature Difference Between People With and Without ME/CFS - Top ME/CFS researcher and clinician Dr. Jose Montoya at Stanford University found that taking blood samples after exercise better allowed doctors to identify the ME/CFS patients versus sedentary controls. This is very important because we desperately need a solid way to diagnose ME/CFS, and while many studies have found abnormal identifiers in the blood of some patients, it is not always a reliable indicator in all patients. This work could lead to a combined exercise-blood testing approach to help diagnose ME/CFS (obviously this would not work in those so severely affected that they can't exercise at all, even for a test).