Leading research into ME/CFS

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Biobank Users

Samples from our Biobank are available to external researchers around the globe. Making these samples available to other researchers increases the chances of achieving much-needed breakthroughs in the aetiology and treatment of ME/CFS, in the most cost-effective manner.

Here are our current collaborators, and their stories:


Francisco Westermeier is a Biochemist and currently a Scientific Researcher at FH Joanneum, University of Applied Sciences in Austria. He will be using samples from our Biobank for a paper titled, “Role of Sirt1/NOS axis in vascular and immune homeostasis: A missing piece in the ME/CFS puzzle?” He will assess whether Sirt1/eNOS function is decreased in HUVECs incubated with plasma from stratified ME/CFS patients compared to controls. To study whether miRs linked to Sirt1/eNOS activity and Sirt1/iNOS/Arg1 expression are altered in plasma and monocytes, respectively, from the same samples. The paper hopes to explore whether the Sirt1/NOS axis might be a potential therapeutic target for treating ME/CFS. These samples were released free of charge thanks to funds from the UKMEB’s Christmas Appeal 2017/18. Thank you everyone who donated.

Dr Mercedes Rincon is a Professor of Medicine, Division of Immunobiology Medicine at the University of Vermont. Her project is called “Exploring an Anti-Citrullinated Antibody Signature in MECFS”. This project seeks to argue that ME/CFS is not only an inflammatory disease, but that a subpopulation of patients possess a ME/CFS-specific antibody to a protein which has an abnormal switch of one amino acid (arginine) with another (citrulline). This will be done by measuring antibodies specific to citrullinated proteins from blood serum samples provided by the UK ME/CFS Biobank.

Professor Duncan Baird is a geneticist with an interest in telomere biology and genome stability, based at Cardiff University. Telomeres are the structures that cap the ends of linear eukaryotic chromosomes. Due to a quirk in the way that DNA is replicated, as cells divide and as we age, telomeres become progressively shorter, ultimately obtaining a length at which they become dysfunctional and trigger the cells to enter a non-dividing state called replicative senescence. Telomeres therefore provide a limit on the number of times cells can divide.

This project hopes to provide an in-depth understanding of cellular ageing of immune cells in patients with ME/CFS and whether this may impact on the pathology of this condition. Providing an understanding of these processes and the technologies to monitor them may in turn lead to prognostic tools and potential therapeutic interventions.

The samples released to Professor Baird were distributed free of charge, as one of the two awardees from the UKMEB’s Christmas Appeal 2017/18, to enable priority research to happen without cost being a barrier. Thank you to everyone who donated.

Professor Faisel Khan is a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Dundee. His study, “Mechanistic Insights into the Pathophysiology of CFS/ME: A Study Examining Nrf2 Antioxidant Gene Expression and its Role in Combatting Oxidative Stress”, examines an extremely important regulatory protein in the body called Nrf2, which is believed to be an activator of the body’s natural antioxidant defence mechanisms. It seeks to provide evidence of changes in Nrf2 production in people with ME.

Professor Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. His team are using serum from the UKMEB in a project entitled “Deciphering antibody reactivities against autoantigens & the microbiome in ME/CFS”, using assays to determine the role and mechanisms of antibody mediated autoimmunity in the disease (with postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Thomas Vogl).

Dr Karl Morten is a senior researcher and laboratory manager at the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford University.

In November 2017 we released a batch of samples to Dr Morten. This sample release represents the culmination of a year’s fundraising and planning, initiated by the ME Association in their 2016 Christmas Appeal.

Dr Morten’s research will use mass spectrometry techniques (among others) to investigate metabolites, chemical clues that have been left behind after metabolism in the cells of people with ME.

Dr Camila Malto Romano is a microbiologist at the Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo at Universidade de São Paulo, where she researches viral evolution and virus-host interaction. In September 2017 she received samples from the UKMEB to begin a study into ME/CFS.

Her group has been working with endogenous retrovirus (ERV) activity in healthy and neurological disorders, looking for distinct expression profiles of the ERVs that would be linked to the development of diseases of unknown or supposedly multiple aetiologies. Their most recent project, ‘Investigation of human endogenous retrovirus expression in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis’, intended to identify differences in expression profiles of the endogenous retroviruses between healthy and ME/CFS patients. Although ERVs have been very well explored on several conditions, there is a lack of studies dedicated to their role on ME/CFS.

Dr Elisa Oltra is a Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Catholic University of Valencia in Spain, where she also works as a researcher in stem-cell and cancer studies. She received samples from the Biobank in June 2017, to conduct a study into the microRNA profiles of people with ME.

Encouraged by the idea that miR profiling may be altered in ME/CFS, her group have been looking at blood samples, and other body fluids, to see if there are any significant abnormalities. In their initial study, they have looked at miRs in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in patients with both ME/CFS and age-matched controls and those with FM.

They are now extending this study to include a larger group of participants with a more varied symptom profile with the aim of symptom profiling and producing symptom severity miR profiles.

Professor Geraldine (Jo) Cambridge is a Professorial Research Associate at University College London, and was the Principal Investigator of the Invest in ME UK Rituximab Clinical Trial.

She has significant experience in rheumatoid arthritis research, and now works with us on an ME Association-funded award assessing T- and B-cell abnormalities and metabolomics in ME/CFS, with Research Assistant Fane Mensah.

Dr Jackie Cliff is an Assistant Professor in Immunology, and our Laboratory Research Lead at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Her expertise in immunology and genetic expression has been an asset to the team and has yielded some promising results on the virology, immunology and genetic expression of ME/CFS. She works with Professor of Immunology Hazel Dockrell and a broader lab team at the LSHTM on our principal NIH R01 grant.

We have also recruited 60 participants for her subsidiary grant (also funded by the US NIH), which enabled comprehensive assessments of cases of ME/CFS, using saliva and urine samples, at regular monthly intervals. This greatly enhances the chances of a breakthrough in the understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease.