Updates: Genes and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Published (New York Times): August 2, 2005

People who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome sometimes have trouble persuading their doctors that they have a real disease because its symptoms are so vague and their cause so elusive.

Now a new study offers convincing evidence that patients with the syndrome, often referred to as C.F.S., have abnormalities in gene expression in their blood. The report appears in the August issue of The Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Jonathan R. Kerr, the senior author of the paper and a senior lecturer at Imperial College, London, said, “C.F.S. patients will be pleased that such ‘biological’ research is progressing toward understanding their disease at the cellular and molecular level.”

Using sophisticated genetic analysis techniques, the researchers compared gene expression in the blood of patients with the syndrome and that of a group of healthy controls matched for age and sex. They confirmed that the expression of 16 genes was significantly different in the patients with chronic fatigue. The authors said these gene expressions may be important in determining the cause of the illness.

The findings are consistent with previous work showing that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome have activated immune systems, showing increased numbers of T-cells and other germ-fighting bodies.

The genes appear to induce blood changes symptomatic of a wide variety of disorders, which may help explain why the symptoms of the syndrome are so varied.

Dr. Kerr said researchers were now ready to begin looking for treatments. “After we truly understand what is happening” on a molecular level, he said, “it will be a short leap to selecting candidate pharmacological therapies to test in clinical trials.”

Source: New York Times (online)

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