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ME & cfs Research

"I believe in a central truth - that science will eventually triumph.  There has been scientific progress in understanding this illness.  We do know much more than we knew 20 years ago, and the puzzle pieces are coming together...."
-Dr. Daniel Peterson-

There have been over 4,000 peer reviewed articles on ME and CFS, and there are many websites with comprehensive research article listings.  (See our Links page for those websites.) On our Research Categories pages we list some of the more notable articles, some as abstracts and some full journal articles, that firmly support our Goals.  There are many overlapping body systems involved in ME and CFS, since the central nervous system (CNS) is the "master control" of all body functions, and much of the research points to damage and dysfunction of the CNS.  CNS damage and dysfunction will affect all body systems--immune, cardiovascular, endocrine--while dysfunction of these body systems in turn affect others, including the CNS.  So some of the articles and abstracts contained here may be listed in more than one category.  (For example, an article concerning orthostatic intolerance may be in both the circulatory and the neurological sections.)

These pages will be growing and evolving over time, as more information is gathered and categorized, and as exciting discoveries in recent years have helped pick up the the research pace.  Follow the links to the right to explore the research on various body systems affected by ME and CFS.

Several MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) studies have detected small brain lesions, abnormalities in white and gray brain matter, and significant decreases in gray matter.  See the Neurology page in this research section for more about neuroimaging in ME/CFS.

Research Overview Introduction

Though early observations date back to 1934, most ME and CFS research has been carried out since the late 1980s due to technological advances (unfortunately some wasted in futile attempts to prove that this is a mental illness, rather than a physical disease of the central nervous system [CNS]).  But diligent researchers have worked to compile a vast body of evidence of physical abnormalities in patients with ME and CFS, and have begun to put together the pieces of the ME/CFS puzzle.  We thank them for their continuing efforts and are pleased to feature their work here.

We credit these dedicated researchers, some who have been in the field for more than 30 years, with a brief summary of their discoveries below, and more detailed lists in the various sub-categories in the Research and Definitions pages of the NAME-US.org website.  Some of these researchers have, sadly, passed away, but have also passed on invaluable observations of up to four generations of ME patients.

ME/CFS Research Overview

●  Neuroimaging of ME/CFS brains has shown objective evidence of poor and abnormal oxygenation, abnormal energy metabolism, small lesions in various areas of the brain, and significant reduction in gray matter.  Spinal taps and autopsies have shown definite signs of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord.
Several researchers have found significant autonomic nervous system (ANS) abnormalities, such as the inability to maintain blood pressure as well as heart rate irregularities in an upright position, and pooling of deoxygenated blood in extremities.
●  Neurocognitive studies (i.e. studies of how the patient processes information) have shown that patients have difficulty with memory, concentration and many other thought processes, that they require more energy to process information, and that their ability to process information worsens with physical exercise or prolonged mental tasks.
●  Numerous studies have shown chronic activation of some parts of the immune system, while other parts are functioning sub-normally, causing chronic infections by any of several pathogens, including reactivation of latent viruses, multiple and severe allergies, the "flu-like", "poisoned", and "hangover" feelings so often described in ME/CFS, and very likely many more of the long list of symptoms.
●  Abnormalities in the cardiovascular system have been noted since the first definitions of ME in the 1950s.  More recent studies have found chronic viral damage to the  heart, low circulating blood volume, improper heart function,  vascular abnormalities and misshapen red blood cells.  Serial exercise tests have recently documented low anaerobic threshold, indicating the post-exertional damage that is the hallmark of ME/CFS.
●  Gene profiling and other genetic studies have found changes most prominently in genes relating to mitochondrial (energy) and immune function, as well as oxidative stress.
●  Studies of oxidative stress in ME/CFS show that several potent free radicals are upregulated, particularly during and after physical or mental activity.
●  Researchers have shown what clinicians and patients knew fifty years ago about ME - that aerobic exercise worsens symptoms and the patients' prognosis.
●  Numerous studies, including neuroimaging, have shown that there is a low incidence of psychologically-related problems in ME/CFS patients, that the disease is not caused or maintained by psychological factors, that it is distinct from clinical depression, and depression rates in ME/CFS are comparable to those with other chronic illnesses.
●  ME has a history of as many as 75 epidemics worldwide since 1935.  More recent epidemiology (the study of epidemics) has shown that ME/CFS is widespread, very often misdiagnosed, and has a devastating effect not only on the patients but on families and the economy.  One study showed ME/CFS patients die fairly young on average (mid-50s and 60s), usually of heart failure or cancer, with suicide risk in younger patients, probably due to the misconceptions perpetuated in the past about this disease.


Research Categories

Research Overview
Contribute to Research
DePaul Univ/Jason
Oxidative Stress

ME Research UK maintains an extensive database of ME & cfs research articles dating back to 1957.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME): a review with emphasis on key findings in biomedical research
Prof. Malcolm Hooper
J. Clin. Pathol. Aug 2006

"In my view the biggest change in our understanding of [ME]CFS over the past 20 years is the abundant evidence that there are measurable abnormalities in the body in patients with CFS."
-Dr. Anthony Komaroff-

Dr. Komaroff's research wrap-up of the 2007 IACFS/ME Conference in DigiVision

"In ME, there are chronic sequelae [complications following the onset of the disease] and the effects may be neurological, hormonal, autoimmune
and myalgic, which may affect the myocardium."
-Dr. John Richardson-

"The belief that [ME] CFS is a psychological illness
is the error of our time."
-Dr. Byron Hyde-

"Increasingly, scientists are adopting a more multidisciplinary approach and promoting scientific exchange and collaboration.  We are finally interested in integrating disciplines, and we have the tools to accomplish this.  It's an exciting time for [ME] CFS research."
-Dr. Nancy Klimas-

For websites with
listings and summaries
of research references,  articles and abstracts,
see the Links

Online Medical Dictionary

(Note: Most of the abstracts and articles in The Research section of this website have been obtained from the PubMed database of the National Library of Medicine.)

To read the full articles and abstracts in the pages of this research section, you will need to have Adobe Reader installed on your computer.  If you do not have this software, click here:

Background image:
Close-up rendering of neurons, the conducting cells of the nervous system.


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