World-first Geelong study tackles chronic fatigue

 

A MAJOR Geelong-based study - a world-first of its kind - is set to help unravel the causes and possible treatment of chronic fatigue.

With a $1.1 million funding investment from the Federal Government as part of the 2020-21 Budget, Deakin University researchers will conduct the five-year project primarily through Geelong Hospital.

The project will investigate the cell profile in people living with the debilitating condition, known medically as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Study lead Professor Ken Walder estimates around one in 100 Australians have ME/CFS, but diagnosis is difficult and there are currently no approved treatments available.

"Awareness of ME/CFS has increased over the past 15 years but the complexity of the illness means some medical practitioners still don't believe it is a real disease," Prof Walder said.

"Symptoms include a deep and lasting fatigue after exertion that isn't relieved by sleep or rest. For many people, these symptoms can persist for years and have a significant effect on those with the condition and the people around them."

Researchers will use stem cell technology, that allows a more accurate reflection of how cells act in the body of their donor, to identify new targets for the treatment of chronic fatigue.

The team will also use gene expression signature technology to screen a library of drugs and identify possible treatments for the syndrome.

Prof Walder said the causes of ME/CFS are not well understood and there is no biomedical test to confirm diagnosis.

"ME/CFS impacts physical and mental health, employment, finances, relationships and many other areas of life," he said.

"By the five-year mark we hope to have identified potential drug therapies and proceed to clinical testing in participants with ME/CFS, hopefully bringing benefit to those suffering from this disorder within a decade."

Associate Professor Heidi Nicholl, CEO of Emerge Australia, the national ME/CFS patient organisation and a project collaborator, said about 25 per cent of people with the condition are housebound or bedbound.

"Currently there are no effective evidence-based treatments for ME/CFS," she said.

"As well as extending our knowledge of the biomedical basis of the condition, this new research offers the real possibility of providing treatments for the symptoms."

 

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Originally published as World-first Geelong study tackles chronic fatigue


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