The Summer 2008 edition of the CFIDS Chronicle, published by the CFIDS Association, included some great information on 10 discoveries surrounding the biology of ME/CFS. If you would like to watch the video by CFIDS Association Scientific Director Suzanne Vernon, PhD and CFIDS President Kim McCleary, click HERE.
The following is a brief recap of the 10 discoveries:
1. ME/CFS is not a form of depression and most ME/CFS patients do not suffer from psychiatric disorders. Research revealed that most ME/CFS patients do not suffer from depression before the onset of their illness. Naturally, depression may set in after chronic illnesses like ME/CFS due to the impact the illness has on the patient’s life.
2. Research found that in ME/CFS patients there is a state of chronic, low-grade immune activiation. There is evidence of activated T cells, activation of genes reflecting immune activation and increased levels of immune system chemicals called cytokines.
3. Research shows that there is significant evidence that ME/CFS patients have poorly functioning natural killer cells. NK cells are crucial white blood cells that are necessary for fighting infections. Some studies suggest that there may be increased NK cells in ME/CFS patients. Most ME/CFS patients I have talked to have very low NK cell counts.
4. MRI scans of ME/CFS patients’ brains have revealed abnormalities in the white matter of their brains. These are small (fraction of an inch) areas just below the cerebral cortex, the outermost area of the brain hemispheres. Differences in gray matter volume are also being observed.
5. Abnormalities in brain metabolism have been discovered using SPECT and PET scans. Research has also revealed that there is problems with energy metabolism in ME/CFS patients.
6. CFS patients experience abnormalities in multiple neuroendocrine systems in the brain.
7. Cognitive impairment is common in ME/CFS patients. Documented are problems with information processing, memory and concentration.
8. Numerous independent researchers have found abnormalities of the autonomic nervous system in ME/CFS patients. These include a failure of the body to maintain blood pressure after a person stands up, abnormal responses of the heart rate to standing and unusual pooling of blood in the veins of the legs. Some studies also find low levels of blood volume.
9. CFS patients have disordered expression of genes that are important in energy metabolism. Energy comes from certain natural chemicals that are processed by enzymes inside each cell. These enzymes are controlled by specific genes. Other genomic research is revealing involvement of genes connected to HPA axis activity, the sympathetic nervous system and immune function.
10. Theres evidence of more frequent latent active infection with various herpesviruses and enteroviruses. The herpesviruses include Epstein Barr, HHV-6 and cytomegalovirus. Other infectious agents, like bacterium that cause Lyme disease, Ross River virus and Q fever, can also trigger CFS.