On International ME Awareness Day 2021 (12th May), ME Research UK with the financial support of The Gordon Parish Charitable Trust (SCIO Charity no SC045752) announced a £400,000 joint initiative to fund biomedical research into the role of viruses in ME/CFS globally.
Many people affected by ME/CFS report that their symptoms began after a viral infection, and there has been much research into how specific viruses might act as a trigger for the illness, or affect the immune system. However, a definitive association between a single virus and the development of ME/CFS has not yet been confirmed. The mechanisms by which these viruses might trigger the symptoms of ME/CFS are not known, but possibilities include altering immune cells or mitochondria, and inducing autoimmunity. The Call for research applications aimed to shed light on any link.
Both charities are pleased to announce that the first Award has been confirmed at a joint meeting of Trustees from ME Research UK and The Gordon Parish Charitable Trust held on 7th October 2021.
An award of c£200,000 has been made to Dr Bhupesh K Prusty, Institute for Virology and Immune Biology, University of Würzburg, Germany for a study entitled ‘Understanding potential infectious triggers behind mitochondrial dysfunction in ME/CFS’.
Dr Prusty’s award is the first of 2 made possible by the financial collaboration between the two charities. Additional grant applications are progressing through ME Research UK’s peer-review process with an announcement of the second Award likely in early 2022.
Dr Prusty commented on the award and the project in a video presented to the meeting.
Dr Prusty’s funded research centres around viruses. Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6), HHV-7 and Epstein-Barr virus have all been implicated as potential infectious triggers of ME. Infection with these viruses will result in a protective immune response, but Dr Prusty suggests that this immune response may also cause damage to the mitochondria.
Mitochondria are responsible for generating energy in the cells of the body, including in the skeletal muscles. An abnormality in energy production in muscle cells has been suggested as a potential cause of the muscle fatigue experienced by people with ME.
These changes to the mitochondria may be due to a number of possible factors transferred in the blood plasma. The aim of Dr Prusty’s study is to identify and characterise some of these factors in blood samples from ME patients and healthy control subjects, and to look at the potential effects of these factors on mitochondrial function.
The results will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms leading to mitochondrial dysfunction in ME, and may help in the development of new treatments. A further aspect of the study is to understand how primary viral infections might cause reactivation of latent viruses.
Read more about the study here
Both Boards look forward to receiving the results of Dr Prusty’s interesting research and to announcing the second Award recipient in due course.