Chronic pain is debilitating and very common, and is a particular problem in people with ME/CFS, 80–90% of whom report severe pain and/or muscle or joint pain. Overall, there is now evidence that brain-orchestrated inhibition of pain at rest and during exercise is impaired in people with ME/CFS, in line with the occurrence of hypersensitivity of the central nervous system (‘central sensitization’). The logical next step is to unravel the mechanisms of the pain associated with central sensitization by examining factors known to increase it. One such factor is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein which is produced by a variety of cells, including sensory and motor neurons, and immune cells.

In a new exploratory study funded by ME Research UK, a cross-disciplinary team of researchers in Belgium aims to investigate the presence of epigenetic changes in the BDNF gene and whether they are more prevalent in ME/CFS patients than in the general population. Given the current understanding of BDNF’s role in central sensitization, their hypothesis is that epigenetic activation of the BDNF gene is related to the pain experienced by people with the illness.

Read the study page for further details