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Nova Southeastern Wins $2M NINDS Award to Study Biomarkers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Scientists at Nova Southeastern University's Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine will use a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to study complex biomarkers of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) in men, NSU said today.

ME/CFS, a debilitating complex disorder that causes profound fatigue, is worsened by physical and mental activity and is four times more likely to occur in women than men. It impacts several body systems, and symptoms include weakness, muscle pain, impaired memory and/or concentration, and insomnia. It affects more than 1 million Americans.

In the study, lead investigator Professor Mary Ann Fletcher will head efforts to understand the underlying mediators of the disorder, and to pinpoint mechanisms that may be used to develop more targeted treatments. Her team has already developed a dynamic model to identify the mediators of the disorder's persistence and relapse. They now plan to use the model to map the mediators of genomic, cellular, and chemical response, in particular by comparing responses in men with those in women.

"Our goal is to pin down precisely what are the differences between men and women facing these diseases and to develop more effective and specific treatment plans using existing drugs that are currently being used to treat other related conditions and symptoms," Fletcher said in a statement.

Because ME/CFS flare-ups often occur during physical activity, the researchers plan to investigate biomarkers before, during, and after an exercise protocol by drawing blood multiple times. The team then will use computational biology models to target the root causes of the disease.

With this grant, Fletcher and her team have now received a total of nearly $10 million from NIH, the US Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to study ME/CFS and Gulf War Illness, a related neuro-immune disorder that presents with similar symptoms but shows different gene activation responses and cytokine signatures.

Fletcher and her team plan to combine their findings from this study with the other ME/CSF and GWI research projects to identify differences in responses between genders and to develop tailored treatments for both men and women.