After a lengthy interruption, a vital study of the genetic origins of ME-CFS resumed this month at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, according to the UK-based ME Association. The Association is one sponsor of the study through its Ramsay Research Fund, which is “wholly dedicated to promoting research into the physical nature and causes of the illness.”
This study is “a world-leader in that it is exploring the whole human genome of 33,000 genes, compared with smaller studies elsewhere,” the Association reports. Initiated two years ago by molecular geneticist Dr. John Gow, PhD, then at Glasgow University, the study was delayed after a small-scale first stage owing to the difficulty of finding sufficient continued funding. At that point, based on genetic analysis of a group of 50 people with ME/CFS, the research team reported they’d identified thousands of genes that appear to play a role in ME/CFS.
The next step began on February 12, 2007 at Glasgow Caledonian University where Dr. Gow now holds a full professorship, is Director for Forensic Investigation, and has the support of a full-time researcher dedicated to the project – Dr. Gillian Gibson, PhD.
This phase of the study will involve work to compare the genomes of ME/CFS patients with both control samples of healthy volunteers and patients suffering from other disorders such as depression, where fatigue can be a major clinical feature. To that end, the researchers have been alerting clinicians who will be providing the research volunteers about the study’s resumption.
“This is good news for cutting-edge research into how the vast number of genes in the body behave in people with ME/CFS,” according to The ME Association’s Medical Advisor, Dr. Charles Shepherd, MD. “We know from the work that John has done so far that significant abnormalities in some genes appear to be uniquely expressed in people with ME/CFS. He can now forge ahead to test the science involved through the recruitment of a wider spread of research volunteers.”
Diagnostic tests and treatments the ultimate aim
"There is as yet no reliable diagnostic test for ME/CFS, and no proven cure,” Dr. Shepherd says. “The ultimate aims of this study are to identify specific genetic markers that can be used as a diagnostic test and to assess new forms of treatment specifically aimed at correcting the genetic abnormalities involved in ME.”
For more information about the ME Association and its activities, go to www.meassociation.org.uk