We take a closer look at the current research being conducted following MEA Ramsay Research Fund investment.
1. Dr Keith Geraghty, University of Manchester
Critical examination of the theoretical basis that underlies the use of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy (GET) in ME/CFS.
This two year award has been given to Dr Keith Geraghty at the University of Manchester and will challenge and review the theoretical basis and clinical application of CBT and GET in the NHS.
Dr Geraghty is an Honorary Research Fellow in Population Health, Health Sciences Research and Primary Care, where his work focuses on ME and CFS.
This new grant will fund an incremental study, in two main phases. Phase 1 being a theoretical exploration of the CBT-model of ME/CFS and phase 2 being an empirical study of patients’ experiences of CBT and GET.
The aim of the study is to better understand why clinical trials are reporting seemingly different effects than are demonstrated in patient surveys and clinical outcomes.
The hypotheses driving this research are that many of the benefits reported in clinical trials, even where modest, may come from factors unrelated to illness belief modification, such as therapy effects, stress management advice, lifestyle advice, the power of suggestion (being asked to think more positively).
The research will also examine whether patients are adequately informed of the rationale for CBT and GET therapies or are embark on such treatments with strong promotion by physicians and therapists – thus increasing therapy and expectancy effects.
RRF investment = £25,000
Publication: Geraghty K (2017). ME/CFS patients’ reports of symptom changes following cognitive behavioural therapy, graded exercise therapy and pacing treatments: Analysis of a primary survey compared with secondary surveys
2. Dr Karl Morten et al., Universities of Oxford and Newcastle
Scientists from the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle are spending 12 months analysing nearly 300 blood samples from the UK ME/CFS Biobank to look for small molecular clues known as metabolites. These are left behind after chemical reactions have taken place at a cellular level.
It is hoped that this research will identify patterns of metabolites that could help to form either a diagnostic test for ME/CFS or help to sub-group people that come under the ME/CFS umbrella.
Identifying consistent and significant abnormalities in the metabolite profile should also help to increase our understanding of the role of factors that are already established in the causation of ME/CFS notably, immune system and mitochondrial dysfunction.
The UK research will also try to replicate the findings from an important 2016 metabolomic study by Dr Robert Naviaux, which suggested that ME/CFS could be caused by the body going into a state of semi-hibernation.
Dr Morten is working alongside Professor James McCullagh, Associate Professor in Mass Spectrometry at the University of Oxford, and Professor Julia Newton, Dean for Clinical Medicine at Newcastle University.
Dr Morten and Professor McCullagh provided a progress report at the 2017 CMRC conference. Video of the presentation is below:
- Sept. 2018 MEA Research Summary: Publication: The search for biomarkers in ME/CFS using Raman Spectroscopy
- August 2018 MEA Research Update: Metabolomics and ME/CFS – Dr Morten and the Oxford Research Centre
Funding for this research has come largely from the 2016 ME Association Christmas Appeal which raised £70,000. The remainder has come from the MEA Ramsay Research Fund.
RRF investment = £100,000
3. Professor Elisa Oltra et al., University of Valencia, Spain
Using blood samples from the cohort of people with severe ME/CFS that are stored at the ME/CFS Biobank, Professor Elisa Oltra and colleagues in Spain are aiming to build up a detailed picture of changes in what are called micro RNA profiles – along similar lines to what they have already discovered in people with fibromyalgia.
- Dr Charles Shepherd wrote a summary about this research study when the original grant investment was announced in December 2016.
The research is now nearing completion and some preliminary results were presented at an international research conference in May 2018.
Professor Oltra will be presenting more information at the CMRC conference in Bristol in September 2018.
RRF investment = £50,000
4. Dr Luis Nacul et al., LSHTM ME/CFS Biobank team and University College London
This new research study will further examine both immune system dysfunction in ME/CFS and defects in the way that energy is being produced at a cellular level.
Pictured opposite: Members of the ME/CFS Biobank team (Incl. Dr Luis Nacal, Dr Eliana Lacerda and Caroline Kingdon) with Prof. Jo Edwards and Dr Charles Shepherd.
The B- and T-cell main study will examine samples from 100 patients (50 moderate: 50 severe) and 100 controls (50 healthy: 50 MS) using flow cytometry.
The immune system component will build on some existing research findings relating to T and B cell status in ME/CFS and will be based at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
The T cell work has been carried out at the LSHTM using samples from the UK ME/CFS Biobank. The results of this research are currently being prepared for publication. The LSHTM project team will be led by Dr Luis Nacul and Dr Jackie Cliff.
T cells are so called because they are mainly produced in the thymus gland. They recognise foreign particles (antigens) through T cell receptors. There are two major types of T cell – T helper cells and cytotoxic T cells.
The B cell work will be based on research that was started at University College London (UCL) by Professor Jo Cambridge and Mr Fane Mensah, mainly in relation to investigating the function and energy requirements of B cells.
B cells are a specific type of white blood cell that mature into what are called plasma cells. These are the cells that produce antibodies which are needed to fight off infections. Others mature into what are called memory B cells.
This new research will investigate how abnormalities in this part of the immune system are linked with evidence that is now emerging of a disturbance in the way that energy is being produced at a cellular level in ME/CFS.
The T and B cell research will be using blood samples from the ME/CFS Biobank – where we have biological samples and clinical data from 284 people with ME/CFS (including with severe ME/CFS), 60 people with multiple sclerosis and 135 healthy controls.
It will draw on the expertise not only of the CureME clinical research team but also of other experts in immunology at the LSHTM.
This research will also involve a small pilot collaboration with Dr Christopher Armstrong’s research team in Australia – who are looking at metabolic (chemical) changes in the blood that occur during energy production.
Pictured opposite: Fane Mensah, University College London (left) and Dr Chris Armstrong, University of Melbourne (right).
RRF investment = Approx £50,000
The Christmas Appeal
More research for M.E. in 2019
We believe that biomedical research offers the best hope. And we want to fund more research in 2019 than ever before. Please help us to build on our success and continue to expand our vital work.
- with a single online donation via JustGiving, or,
- by cheque (made payable to: The ME Association) to: The ME Association, 7 Apollo Office Court, Radclive Road, Gawcott, Bucks MK18 4DF, or,
- by card donation over the phone to our head office (01280 818964).
If you would like to fundraise for the Christmas Appeal, please start your online giving page, here.
One day we will find the cause of this disease and have effective forms of treatment. And with your help, that day could come much sooner.
Other pages in this section:
- UK ME/CFS Biobank
- Current Studies
- Post-Mortem Tissue Bank and Tissue Donation
- Pathology of CFS
- ME/CFS Disease Register
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