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Latest research: M.E. cellular bioenergetics impaired

November 06, 2017

Research co-funded by Action for M.E., showing that cellular bioenergetics is impaired in patients with M.E., has been published in the journal PlosOne.

Also co-funded by the Medical Research Council, the ME Association, ME Research UK and the Newcastle Molecular Pathology Node (jointly sponsored by the Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the study compared samples of peripheral blood mononuclear cells  from 52 people with M.E. and 35 controls.

Writing in the New Scientist about the study, science journalist Andy Coghlan explains that the paper's lead author, Newcastle University PhD student Cara Tomas, has personal experience of M.E., being bedbound with the condition more than 10 years ago:

"It came on suddenly, she says, without warning signs. Even now she has good days and bad days due to the lingering effects of the disease. 'A lot of people dismiss it as a psychological disease, which is a big frustration,' she says. 'Now we’ve shown there’s a physiological difference, it could explain the whole-body fatigue shown by patients.' The finding adds to mounting evidence that the disorder has a biological explanation, and raises the prospects for new treatments and diagnostic tests."

The study shows that cells from people with M.E. are unable to function properly, and meet the energy demands of routine physical tasks. Quoted in the New Scientist article, Prof Stephen Holgate, Chair of the UK CFS/M.E. Research Collaborative, said, "These exciting results confirm what others have postulated but not been able to prove, namely that cells of patients with CFS are easily metabolically exhausted when put under any form of stress. In many ways, this is how patients describe their whole-body experience with CFS.”

Tomas now plans to take samples of muscle cells and testing them in the same way as the blood cells.