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Female volunteers sought for study of sleep & immune function in CFS

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By Editor • www.ProHealth.com • April 9, 2007


An ongoing NIH-funded research project at the UMDNJ* Pain & Fatigue Study Center in Newark, New Jersey, is exploring the theory that “malfunctioning” cytokines in the blood of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients are responsible for making them sleepy during the day and “wired” at night. A successful outcome could lead to corrective therapies, the researchers say.

The project – "Sleep and Cytokines in CFS" – is seeking relatively sedentary female volunteers (CFS patients and healthy control subjects) in the New York/New Jersey area. It is led by Benjamin Natelson, MD, professor of neurosciences at New Jersey Medical School and Co-Director of the Study Center.

Cytokines are related to immune function and are known to affect alertness. In healthy people cytokine levels are associated with a cycle of wakefulness during the day and tiredness at night. But in CFS patients, the researchers propose, malfunctioning cytokines may be associated with a reversal of the normal sleep/wakefulness pattern.

As explained at the Pain & Fatigue Study Center website, “Dr. Natelson has done many studies of immune function in blood in CFS patients and has never found any major abnormality. He and his colleagues believe this may be because all the blood samples were taken in the daytime and not during the night time, when many patients have trouble sleeping.”

And why the particular focus on sedentary female subjects at this phase in the study? Cytokine function is known to be affected by gender, and currently more women than men are diagnosed with CFS, the researchers note. Also, vigorous exercise is known to affect cytokine levels.

The hope is that the study findings might point the way to therapies to “rebalance” CFS patients’ immune systems and help correct disordered sleep-wake cycles.

A few study details:

  • Participants will be required to sleep in a research lab for three or four nights over a period of several months.
  • They will receive a trial allowance and some compensation for their time.
  • Medical treatment they receive will be provided free of charge.

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