Professors study chronic fatigue syndrome

Last semester, researchers from NSU’s Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine received a $1.95 million grant from National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Neurological Disorders to study Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in men.

Mary Ann Fletcher, schemel professor of neuroimmune medicine at the institute, said that the institute will focus on gender differences in its new study. Fletcher, the principal investigator on the new grant, said the institute’s goal is to treat the root causes of ME/CFS as physicians currently only treat the symptoms.

“Many of the 1 million people with ME/CFS are no longer able to work and live in discomfort and pain,” Fletcher said.

About 60 to 70 percent of the million people in the U.S. with ME/CFS are women. The institutes previously earned a grant for researching women with ME/CFS.

“The research that we did that allowed us to be approved for this grant, indicated to us that there is significant difference in the presentation of clinical and biochemical and immunological of men with the disorder compared to women.”

The study will combine the institute’s past observations of the clinical and biological features of the disease both when patients are at rest and when they are exercising.

In the study, 40 men with ME/CFS and 40 controls will go through a rigorous exercise challenge. Fletcher said that exercise amplifies the differences between those with ME/CFS and those without the disease.

“It makes it easier to see exactly what’s going on in terms of the immune system and endocrine system,” Fletcher said. “Past studies showed that ME/CFS is associated with defects in these systems.”

The data will be given to the center’s bioinformics group, who will study how the data relates to the patients. Over the next four years, the researchers will compare the data on men to their data on women.

“The ultimate goal of this is to find out exactly what’s wrong, document it, and then write protocols that lead to clinical trials,” Fletcher said.

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