Thursday, September 01, 2016

Exciting New Research May Help with ME/CFS Diagnosis & Treatment

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Earlier this week, University of California San Diego released the results of a ground-breaking study that identified a metabolic chemical "signature" that was able to differentiate between ME/CFS patients and healthy controls. This study represents a big step forward in developing a method for diagnosis (rather than just relying on clinical symptoms) and potential treatments. Here is UC San Diego's press release describing the study results and an article that appeared in Science Daily this week on the study.

This is a complicated one, so here are some of the highlights and WHY this study represents a major breakthrough:
  • The study included 45 men and women with CFS and 39 matched controls.
  • Researchers looked at 612 metabolites (substances produced by the processes of metabolism) from 63 biochemical pathways in blood plasma.
  • They found abnormalities in 20 of those metabolic pathways in ME/CFS patients compared to healthy controls.
  • From just their metabolic data, they were able to accurately identify over 90% of the ME/CFS patients, showing that this could be a valuable diagnostic tool, more accurate than anything else we have yet.
  • Of the many metabolites measured, researchers found that 80% of them were decreased in ME/CFS patients, indicating a state of reduced metabolism.
  • This reduced metabolism or hypometabolism is the opposite of what is seen in metabolic syndrome or in acute infection. Basically, our bodies are trying to protect themselves by partially shutting down or slowing down, a process called Cell Danger Response (CDR).
  • Of the abnormalities found in ME/CFS patients, 25% of them were consistent across all patients tested regardless of time sick or how the illness began - these are the ones that could help create an accurate diagnostic test(s).
  • The remaining 75% of abnormalities differed from one patient to the next, which helps to explain why some patients respond well to a treatment and others don't. These individualized abnormalities could help lead to very specific treatments based on metabolic testing to help each patient.
  • There were significant differences in many of the measured metabolites between men and women (though still that core 25% that were the same across the board and could be used for diagnosis).
The best news of all? This is just the beginning! The main researcher at UC - San Diego, Dr. Naviaux, has joined the board of the Open Medicine Foundation (a key ME/CFS research and clinical organization), and OMF is already planning the next study with Dr. Naviaux, which will include a larger patient population and will also look at the role of genetics.

If you want to know more of the details, this is an excellent study summary and Q&A with Ron Davis, Director of the Scientific Advisory Board at OMF.

So, all-around great news for ME/CFS patients! This is one of many ground-breaking scientific studies on ME/CFS in the past few years that is moving the science forward at a fast pace. Diagnostic tools and treatments come next! All of this leads to hope for a better future for all of us!


Laurel said...

Excellent summary, Sue! I am very hopeful about these findings.

Sue Jackson said...

Me, too, Laurel! Especially since there is already a larger follow-up study in the works :)