Current Research Studies

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ME Association (Ramsay Research Fund) Medical Research

Current Research Studies

Exclusive Research Funded by Ramsay Research Fund

1) Effect of Exercise on Cognitive and Immune System Function

The research will aim to provide objective evidence of post-exertional malaise by looking at the effects of exercise on immune system function and cognitive function.

The research protocol will also involve measurement of respiratory function during exercise – an aspect of research that the ME Association are keen to pursue – and the study will use patients who meet both the Fukuda and Canadian diagnostic criteria.

Lead researchers: Dr Amolak Bansal and Dr Megan Arroll

RRF investment = £32,000

2) Exercise-induced Fatigue and Post-Exertional Malaise

This study aims to increase our understanding of the pathological and physiological mechanisms that cause exercise induced fatigue and post-exertional malaise in ME/CFS.

It will be carried out in two European centres located in Belgium and Glasgow, and should help to demonstrate whether there are any abnormalities present, which may even be treatable, in those who meet the Fukuda research definition for CFS and the Canadian definition for ME/CFS.

The study will also include a group of people with multiple sclerosis who experience significant fatigue – to see if there are any similarities with ME/CFS fatigue – and a group of healthy controls with sedentary lifestyles.

Lead researchers: Professor Jo Nijs and Dr Lorna Paul

RRF investment = £31,000

3) Sleep Disturbance and Management

Sleep abnormalities and specific types of sleep disturbance will be thoroughly assessed in 40 patients recruited from Professor Julia Newton’s research group in Newcastle.

A tailored sleep management programme will then be devised based on this information and delivered in collaboration with each patient.

Lead researchers: Professor Jason Ellis and Professor Julia Newton

RRF investment = £15,000

4) Comparison of results from a commercial and NHS blood test to assess mitochondrial function

This study will be comparing the results of a commercial blood test for mitochondrial function that has been developed by Dr Sarah Myhill and colleagues with the results from an international and widely accepted test of mitochondrial function which has a long and successful track record in clinical diagnosis and research of muscle disease particularly in the UK.

The aim is to determine the efficacy of each set of tests in relation to ME/CFS. In the exciting case that a synergy between the two diagnostic approaches exists, it is hoped that this preliminary study will promote an investigation into a more inclusive and highly resolved analytical technique for metabolic testing of people with ME/CFS.

Lead researcher:  Dr Sarah Jayne Boulton

RRF investment = £21,305

Collaborative Research and Donations:

5) Abnormalities in Mitochondrial Function in Skeletal Muscle

Employing new technology, this research aims to demonstrate that skeletal muscle mitochondria are dysfunctional and cause the muscle fatigue experienced in ME/CFS:

‘The dysfunctional mitochondria then activate a process which leads to a chronic, low grade inflammation, commonly reported in patients with CFS, which in turn results in further mitochondrial abnormalities and the establishment of a vicious circle of events. Understanding the processes by which muscle fatigue occurs will lead to optimal interventions that break this vicious circle and improve muscle function and wellbeing of individuals.’

Extract taken from: MRC CFS/ME Current Projects

Preliminary results from the study were published in a recent paper: ‘The Role of Cytokines in Muscle Fatigue in Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’, The FASEB Journal, April 2015.

The authors recruited 100 untreated patients with CFS and 100 age and sex matched healthy controls, and concluded:

…a sub-group of patients with CFS may have low level inflammation and analyses are underway to further characterise other inflammatory markers in serum and muscle of these patients and to determine whether such changes could affect indices of muscle function or central fatigue.

Lead researcher: Professor Anne McArdle

This research is being jointly funded with the Medical Research Council

RRF investment = £30,000

6) Immune System Dysfunction

This is a 16-month study that began in May 2014 and will look at the way the immune system responds, particularly against infections, in people with ME/CFS. Patients will be recruited from the Newcastle NHS ME/CFS specialist service.

At the launch of the initiative, Professor Todryk commented:

Because many different known diseases also have fatigue as one of their symptoms, this suggests that several processes may come into play to cause it. Uncontrolled immune responses appear to be important in fatigue, and infections – that’s viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites – are major initiators of immune responses, some of which are associated with ME/CFS. We want work out if those immune responses can be used to diagnose M.E./CFS, and if they can be targeted for treatment.

Lead researchers: Professor Stephen Todryk and Professor Julia Newton

This research is being jointly funded with Action for M.E.

RRF investment = £19,500

7) Patterns of Mitochondrial DNA Variation

This is an 18-month study that began in May 2014 and seeks to determine if patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation in ME/CFS are different than in healthy controls.

At the launch of the initiative, Dr Joanna Elson commented:

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, and mitochondrial DNA provides the codes for proteins that are essential for energy production. We want to see if patients with ME/CFS have different patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation that could affect a person’s chances of succumbing to ME/CFS, or act as a barrier to recovery.

Lead researcher: Dr Joanna Elson

This research is being funded by Action for M.E.

RRF donation = £5,000