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Approved research

Using UK Biobank data to investigate the biomolecular and genetic bases to myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS)

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Ponting
Approved Research ID: 46762
Approval date: February 4th 2020

Lay summary

Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/ chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a devastating disease afflicting a quarter of a million people in the UK. Diagnosing the disease remains a challenge, and patients often struggle with their illness for years before an identification is made. Many health professionals have been sceptical about the serious physiological - rather than psychological or psychiatric - nature of the illness. Once diagnosed, patients often complain of receiving hostility from their strategies that may exacerbate their symptoms. ME/CFS is likely to be triggered by a viral infection, but the disease manifests when people fail to recover from this infection. If this study can identify some of the genetic causes of this failure to recover then: (a) a physiological basis to some causes of ME/CFS will have been proved, which will assist patients in their communication with healthcare professionals, and (b) experiments targeting specific hypotheses can be designed that use a sufficiently large amount of data to yield robust findings. We will test whether some DNA differences in human genomes predict a person's risk of having been diagnosed with ME/CFS. Because it is possible that there are gender-specific differences, we will also do this for women and for men separately. Also, because there is some evidence that ME/CFS patients might have altered their diet to ameliorate their ME/CFS symptoms, we wish to understand whether some genetic causes of ME/CFS are correlated with patient dietary patterns. We will also perform these studies for fibromyalgia because of its overlap in diagnoses with ME/CFS. This study should take up to 12 months.