Japan Studying How to Prevent Killer Fatigue

Editor’s note: Although Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn’t caused by overwork, this research effort could greatly benefit CFS patients by discovering a fatigue biomarker that would lead to more targeted treatments.

OSAKA – How tired are you? Dog tired? Exhausted? Or simply worn out? Japan is conducting what it claims to be the world’s first project to devise a scientific method of measuring fatigue and finding a cure for tiredness.

The project was launched this month and involves 18 leading Japanese companies in the pharmaceutical, food-processing and trading fields, as well as five universities and the city administration of Osaka.

‘Basic research is in its fifth year under a government request for a study which meets the needs of ordinary people,’ said Osaka City University professor Masayasu Inoue, one of the project’s key researchers.

‘You see medical and health products for curing tiredness all over in newspapers and on television. Karoshi is known around the world.

‘Naturally, the subject seemed relevant,’ Prof Inoue said. Karoshi means death from overwork.

‘There hasn’t been a project anywhere in the world to probe fatigue in a scientific way before and we wanted to establish the world’s first research base on chronic fatigue syndrome.’

The project is being coordinated by Soiken Inc, an Osaka-based venture for bio-technological and medical research.

Project leader Osami Kajimoto, a Soiken board member and assistant professor in the health management centre at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies, said the undertaking is the first of its kind in the world, the Japan Times reported on Thursday.

‘Our project is connected to the revitalization of industry and controlling medical costs,’ Prof Kajimoto was quoted as saying.

‘We would like to bring the power of industry, government and academia together to find out fatigue biomarkers, develop anti-fatigue food products and train our sights on prevention of overwork and improvements in work hygiene.’

A biomarker is a chemical in the body which has a particular molecular feature that makes it useful for measuring the progress of disease or the effects of treatment.

The statement said it is ‘extremely important to objectively grasp the degree of fatigue’ in preventing karoshi, which has risen at an alarming rate in recent years as the economic recession has increased pressure on workers.

The Health Ministry recognized that 136 people had died or suffered serious disease such as brain and heart ailments as a result of overwork in the six months to September, up from the previous record high of 115 a year earlier.

The project will focus on finding fatigue biomarkers and a method of assessing tiredness in its first phase, which lasts to 2005.

In the second phase, until September 2006, the project will concentrate on clinical tests to verify fatigue control and fatigue recovery.

Source: The Straits Times (Asia).

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