Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Breaking News: Chemical Changes in Immune Cell DNA from ME/CFS Patients

SMCI Funded Research Results Announced!

We are pleased to announce the first study to report epigenetic modifications throughout the genome in female ME/CFS patients compared to a matched sample of healthy controls.  This research conducted in partnership and funded by the Solve ME/CFS Initiative (SMCI) was published today in the high impact and open access journal PLOS ONE (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0104757).

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative launched our Research Institute Without Walls in 2010 and Dr. Patrick McGowan was one of our first grantees to use this innovative infrastructure. Together with his graduate student, Will de Vega and SMCI’s Scientific Director, Suzanne D. Vernon, they found evidence of distinct epigenetic profiles in immune and other physiologically relevant genes in a selected group of female ME/CFS patients. Will de Vega, who performed much of the work, is a PhD candidate in the department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto. His thesis research concerns how environmental factors and ME/CFS impact immunological processes, and their effects on clinically relevant phenotypes.

Epigenetic modifications affect the way genes are turned on or off without changing the inherited gene sequences. “Knowledge about the epigenetics of ME/CFS could potentially lead to alternative treatment options for sufferers, from targeted lifestyle interventions to new pharmacological treatments”, notes McGowan. There were many epigenetic modifications in and around immune genes that affect the way these genes are regulated and expressed. These types of changes would be expected to affect immune cell function in ME/CFS patients. “This is the first in a series of exciting results coming from McGowan’s lab at the University of Toronto”, says Suzanne D. Vernon. “By understanding these epigenetic differences in the immune cells of ME/CFS patients, we can begin to decipher the molecular mechanisms of the immune dysfunction that we suspect is at the root of ME/CFS”.

McGowan started this ME/CFS epigenetic research in 2012. His quick success is a testament to the power of patient-centered research approach used by the Solve ME/CFS Initiative. “Our study would not have been possible without the funding provided by the Solve ME/CFS Initiative, patient samples from the SolveCFS BioBank, and the collaborative support of the Initiative’s scientific director Dr. Suzanne D. Vernon” says McGowan.

The Solve ME/CFS Initiative will continue to partner with McGowan and his team at the University of Toronto to further this exciting work of epigenetics and ME/CFS. This field of research holds promise for identification of diagnostic biomarkers and potential treatment and interventions for ME/CFS. For right now it is further demonstration of the indisputable biological basis of ME/CFS.

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