ME is in the genes—not in the mind, say scientists By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent (Filed: 21/07/2005) The belief that chronic fatigue syndrome is "all in the mind" may finally have been laid to rest with the discovery that sufferers have biological abnormalities, researchers claim today. The illness makes sufferers feel exhausted. The symptoms, which include weakness, headaches, disrupted sleep patterns and a difficulty in concentrating, have been likened to a bad hangover. A team led by Dr Jonathan Kerr, from Imperial College London, has made a breakthrough in research on the illness, which could lead to a blood test for the disorder and drugs to treat it. The research, due to be published in the Journal of Clinical Pathology next month, shows "clear physical changes" in fatigue syndrome sufferers. Dr Kerr's team discovered that their white blood cells behaved differently from the cells of non-sufferers. Several cell genes seem to show signs that continuing viral infection is the cause of the condition. There are between 120,000 and 250,000 sufferers in Britain. The syndrome has been designated a neurological condition by the World Health Organisation. Also known as ME, it has confused scientists for years, with some clinicians dismissing it as a figment of the patients' imagination. Dr Kerr and his team now intend to examine a larger sample of sufferers. He said: "The involvement of such genes does seem to fit with the fact that these patients lack energy and suffer fatigue. This research will open the door to development of pharmacological interventions." Russell Lane, a neurologist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, said: "This exciting new work shows that some aspects of this complex illness may be understandable in molecular terms and that chronic fatigue syndrome is not a 'made up' illness." Dr John Gow, a senior lecturer in clinical neuroscience at the University of Glasgow, is carrying out similar work, using DNA micro-analysis to examine differences in active and inactive genes in sufferers. His preliminary findings support those of Dr Kerr's group. Dr Gow's group has identified certain drugs that it hopes to put through trials to see if they can be used to treat fatigue syndrome. Dr Charles Shepherd, a medical adviser to the ME Association, said: "This work is very significant. It gives us clues about genetic abnormalities that can guide new research into the causal mechanism of the condition, which hopefully can lead us to novel treatments." To read more about the study see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/4702515.stm http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725093.700 So far the work has been carried out on 25 patients and 25 healthy controls. Now Dr Kerr 's team is going to be testing 1000 patients. Not only do they hope to find this a diagnostic marker for ME/CFS but also they believe that this will lead to a treatment. Dr Enlander will be taking samples from ME-CFS patients who can get to NYC, the samples will then be sent to Dr Kerr. The research is funded by the British CFS Research Foundation & a grant from the National CFIDS foundation.