Open Medicine Foundation is excited to announce that our Science Liaison, Christopher Armstrong, PhD has received a grant of $784,000 for ME / CFS research from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia. The NHMRC is the primary agency of the Australian Government responsible for medical and public health research. This is one of the first biomedical research projects to be funded by the Australian government to investigate ME / CFS.
Dr. Armstrong received the research grant in collaboration with Professor Paul Gooley at the University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Adam Scheinberg, Dr. Sarah Knight, and Dr. Elisha Josev at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
This research proposal seeks to understand pathological mechanisms of paediatric ME / CFS (13 to 18 years old) using metabolomic, proteomic and genomic approaches. They have chosen to examine ME / CFS in this understudied group as the disease is likely to be at an early stage. Further, the social, developmental, and economic impact of the debilitating symptoms of ME / CFS on young people and their carers is significant and deserves focussed research.
There are two main parts to the study: an initial case-control comparison study; followed by a longitudinal study. The case-control comparison study will identify differences between ME / CFS and healthy cohorts in their metabolites, proteins, genes and the way they process amino acids, fats and carbohydrates for energy production. The longitudinal study will assess the metabolism of the ME / CFS during ten self-identified “good” and “bad” days. During a “good” or “bad” day, the patient will provide a self-assessment of symptom severity and a blood micro-sample and 24-hour urine will be collected for metabolomics analysis. During the longitudinal study, participants will have wearable technology and a phone application that will enable them to update symptom changes.
Complex diseases such as ME / CFS will often have an etiological mechanism that entails predisposing, triggering, and maintaining factors. The variety of factors that can lead to the disease, taken with the variety of symptoms expressed by those that suffer ME / CFS, suggest the underlying basis of the disease needs to be a broad biological anomaly with layers of anomalies that are specific for individuals and help define their pathogenesis. The combination of deep profiling with longitudinal sampling enables patients to be compared to themselves during “good” and “bad” days, which will help observe the biochemical signatures that relate to the disease or symptom expression.
Our research findings have the potential to identify diagnostic biomarkers of the condition, aid in prognosis and development of novel treatments, and improve the lives and futures of children with ME / CFS. Ultimately, this study will benefit people of all ages with ME / CFS by improving our understanding of the disease pathogenesis for the further development of specific treatments.