Huntsville, Ala. – HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Liz Worthey, PhD, will study the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with help from a $45,000 pilot grant from the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI) Ramsay Award Program.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) affects millions of people, and many of them struggle with day-to-day tasks because of the illness, which causes debilitating fatigue, pain, immune, neurologic and sleep problems amongst other symptoms. The Institute of Medicine estimates between 836,000 to 2.5M people in the U.S. are affected by ME/CFS. Most of them are women; 90 percent of them remain undiagnosed.
This next wave of research will be carried out by Worthey and Camille Birch, PhD, from the Worthey Lab, working with Jarred Younger, PhD, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) who will provide both patient samples and detailed information on how the disease shows up in those patients. The study will also specifically seek to extract information on how these patients respond to various drugs through pharmacogenomics and will look for molecular variation associated with dietary considerations noted to sometimes be beneficial in this disease.
“We believe we can make real progress by making use of a comprehensive whole genome sequencing approach with the application of our existing informatics tools, methods and expertise,” said Worthey. “Our focus is on research that will help existing patients, and we want that progress to usher in new solutions for these patients who have been marginalised and ignored for far too long.”
The cause of ME/CFS remains poorly understood. Patients show a variety of symptoms involving multiple systems, leading some researchers to believe the cause of the illness is itself extremely complex. However, many of the affected systems are related to immune or metabolic function, which are linked. This leads to the possibility that a single underlying system is responsible, while the varying symptoms stem from the differences in the genetic causes that trigger the disease.
If researchers can better understand the disease and identify genetic underpinnings of ME/CFS found in these participants, it could lead to new therapies and quicker, more efficient diagnoses for patients.