Press Office


You and ME: working together to discover causes of CFS/ME


Three new studies in Newcastle examining the biological causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME are being showcased at the launch of a new collaboration to improve understanding and treatment of the condition.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis, causes persistent exhaustion that affects everyday life and doesn't go away with sleep or rest. It affects over 600,000 people in the UK but its cause is poorly understood and treatments are limited.

The UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative (UK CMRC) is a new initiative led by the country’s leading experts in the field to expand medical studies into this complex set of disorders by facilitating greater expertise and improve co-ordination of wide-ranging research activities.

Professor Julia Newton is Clinical Professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University and also a Consultant at the Royal Victoria Infirmary within the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She said: “Chronic fatigue syndrome or ME is a disease that destroys the lives of those it affects.

“Working together and with patient groups, we can ensure that research is performed that pushes the field forward, develops a generation of researchers skilled in this area, and attracts researchers to CFS/ME who have not previously worked in this area.”

At the launch, Professor Newton will outline three new studies being carried out in Newcastle. The first involves examining whether a monoclonal antibody, Rituximab, could be used as a medicine in order to understand more about fatigue mechanisms. Rituximab is highly successful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and the profound fatigue experienced by patients with an immune liver disease known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.

The second trial will explore why people with CFS/ME have low blood pressure and whether this could be a target for treatment.

This work includes studies involving newly-developed MRI techniques to examine the muscle, brain and hearts of patients. In addition, further laboratory studies will involve growing muscle cells from CFS/ME patients and examining their reaction to exercise.

The third study lead by Dr Fai Ng at Newcastle University explores the role inflammation might play in the symptoms of fatigue.

Professor Newton added: “The UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative is an opportunity for us to showcase the range of important work being performed in Newcastle that focuses upon understanding the biological basis of this disease. The ultimate goal is to develop treatments that will address the chronic and debilitating symptoms that affect people with this condition.”

Last year, Professor Newton and Dr Fai Ng at Newcastle University were awarded nearly £1 million in two of only five Medical Research Council grants to study the biological basis of CFS and these studies are just starting in the city. 

If you are affected by the condition and want to find out more see the ME/CFS Research Newcastle Facebook page.

published on: 23 April 2013