Researchers at the University of Liverpool will be the first to implement a newly developed lab technique that is more sensitive to identifying mitochondrial function within the muscle’s fibers - a technique they believe could reveal the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
(And one, we would hope, that could be applied in the study of fibromyalgia patients' muscle fibers as well.)
ME/CFS is a severely debilitating illness, characterized by prolonged fatigue that can be triggered by minimal activity. Fatigue is accompanied by symptoms that may include painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep patterns, gastric problems and cognitive impairment.
• The causes of the condition are unknown, but some studies have suggested that a defect in the energy producing components of muscle cells, called mitochondria, could be responsible.
• Other studies, however, have not been able to demonstrate this defect.
• It is thought that limitations in the methods used to determine mitochondrial function in human muscle fibers could be the reason why the causes of ME/CFS have been difficult to explore.
The Liverpool team anticipates that using the new mitochondrial analysis methods will:
• Establish whether skeletal muscle mitochondria in patients with ME/CFS are indeed dysfunctional,
• And if so might explain muscle fatigue and further complications leading to chronic inflammation and pain.
According to team member Professor Anne McArdle, a specialist in the University’s Pathophysiology Research Unit:
• “The mechanisms that lead to debilitating muscle fatigue and pain in CFS patients are unknown.
• “The time required for diagnosis further complicates the identification of the factors responsible for triggering the illness.
• “Reversal of the severe fatigue that follows remains the most promising form of treatment.”
• “Scientists have hypothesized that the mitochondria malfunction, significantly reducing the energy supply to the muscle cells that allow the body to carry out its daily activities.
• “The pain and inflammation that follows can cause further mitochondrial abnormalities and so the vicious cycle of events continues.”
The University of Liverpool is participating with the Universities of Newcastle and Sheffield in development of a UK-based Center for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing – CIMA (http://www.cimauk.org).
Source: Based on University of Liverpool news release, Dec 21, 2011