Weill Cornell Medical College has been awarded more than $1.9 million by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health to lead an innovative research study using advanced neuroimaging and clinical evaluations of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
The new four-year clinical study, to be conducted in collaboration with Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Beth Israel Medical Center, will aim to expand the scientific understanding of CFS, improve diagnostics for the condition and discover novel biomarkers, all of which may lead to the identification of new and more effective treatment targets.
This NIH supported clinical research study will build upon the last seven years of research conducted by the partnering institutions Weill Cornell, Mount Sinai and Beth Israel. In recent small pilot clinical studies, generously supported by The CFIDS Association of America, these three academic medical research centers have investigated CFS using sophisticated neuroimaging and battery of clinical tests.
Their preliminary, small pilot study findings show the key culprit in CFS may be increased and sustained oxidative stress evidenced in the neuroimaging scans, blood and bodily fluid tests of CFS patients. Specifically, their research shows levels of cortical glutathione (GSH) — the most abundant and one of the most important antioxidants in living tissue — are decreased by 36 percent in CFS patients.
This novel cortical GSH deficit finding was also correlated with those patients with increased levels of blood markers of oxidative stress and symptoms of CFS. Study results also show CFS patients also have significantly elevated ventricular cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) lactate and decreased regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF).
Researchers found in their pilot studies that the abnormalities identified in CFS patients are similar to the abnormalities witnessed in MDD patients. In the new study, researchers hope to decode CFS and distinguish it from neuropsychiatric conditions such as MDD. This current uncertainty makes it critical for research studies to investigate the nature of comorbidity in CFS.
"The discovery of specific biomarkers that can differentiate CFS from similarly presenting psychiatric disorders will have aprofound impact for how the disorder is perceived, managed, diagnosed and for the development of objective diagnostic tests, therapeutic targets and advanced scientific understanding of this mysterious debilitating illness," says Dr. Shungu.
Researchers believe this study is highly innovative, representing a departure from nearly all previous studies for CFS to date. They trust it may be the first comprehensive attempt to identify brain biomarkers for the condition.
Other study investigators include Dr. Benjamin Natelson of Beth Israel and Dr. Dan Iosifescu of Mount Sinai. For this study, Weill Cornell, Mount Sinai and Beth Israel plan to enroll 40 patients with CFS, 40 MDD patients and 20 healthy controls. To learn more about enrolling in the study, call 212-746-2632.
This research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01MH100005.