Scientists identify 11 biomarkers linked to chronic fatigue syndrome

Posted: 28th May 2021

University of Montreal researchers have identified 11 microRNAs associated with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). They have developed a simple test to identify these biomarkers that could lead to more “accurate diagnoses, prevention measures, and effective treatment options” for ME/CFS. It may offer potential mechanisms for diagnosing other conditions that cause chronic-fatigue, including ‘long-COVID’. 

Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome is a challenge for clinicians, with no established test or validated blood biomarker currently available. Instead, diagnosis of ME/CFS is based on a patients’ symptoms, including severe post-exercise tiredness. It’s one of the reasons that an estimated 84 – 91% of those suffering from ME/CFS may remain undiagnosed. 

In a new paper, published in Scientific Reports, a research team at CHU Sainte-Justine and the University of Montreal, led by Dr Alain Moreau, describe how they have developed a new diagnostic test that searches for changes in microRNAs. 

The test analyses two blood samples, one to establish a baseline and another taken after what the scientists describe as “a post-exertional stress challenge” using a therapeutic massager. The patients were exposed to up to 90 minutes of stimulation, which caused significant discomfort. Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome experienced a range of symptoms, including profound fatigue, headache, muscle pain, and sleep disturbances.

Scientists performed a computational analysis to compare the blood samples. The findings identified 11 microRNAs associated with post-exercise malaise (PEM). “Most of them are novel and are for the first time associated with ME/CFS,” the authors said.

MicroRNAs play an essential role in gene expression, including regulating the immune system. The results highlight the importance of microRNAs in the development of ME/CFS. They also add evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is related to dysfunction in the immune system. The findings could help scientists to develop effective new treatments. “Circulating miRNAs are also altered by exercise and could represent useful biomarkers to characterize PEM occurring in ME/CFS and therapeutic targets to prevent or manage this condition,” the authors conclude. 

In the future, scientists may use the findings to create personalised treatment plans that have a greater chance of success. “These miRNA signatures and clusters could eventually be used to predict responses to pharmacological treatments for ME/CFS,” say the authors. 

While the study was small, involving just 40 patients, it’s an exciting start point for future research. Moreau and colleagues suggest that the results require validation in a larger sample size to confirm the efficacy of the test and its ability to diagnose ME/CFS at different stages of development.

At Biocentaur, we offer a range of personalised genetic tests to help diagnose debilitating conditions such as Lyme Disease. Our PrimeSpot test provides your clinician with critical information that can support them in diagnosing ME/CFS. The sooner your condition is diagnosed, the quicker you can act to improve your health and wellbeing.

You can read the full paper, Profile of circulating microRNAs in myalgic encephalomyelitis and their relation to symptom severity, and disease pathophysiology, here.

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