Research examines environmental triggers altering gene function in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients

February 23, 2012, University of Toronto Scarborough

A University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) researcher is examining how environmental triggers might alter gene function in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The research could lead to better insights into the disease and eventually to new treatments.

Patrick O. McGowan, professor in the department of and director of UTSC's Laboratory for Epigenetic , is looking at how environmentally triggered changes to might alter and stress response in ways that contribute to the disease.

McGowan's field of study is epigenetics – long-term changes in gene function that do not change the underlying DNA sequence. An epigenetic change wouldn't change a gene itself, but would influence whether, when and how the gene is turned off. Epigenetic changes can be caused by environmental triggers such as infections, toxins, stress, nutrition, and even the social environment.

McGowan will conduct the study into the epigenetics of CFS with a grant from the CFIDS Association of America. As part of the grant, he will have access to the SolveCFS Biobank, a collection of biological samples from CFS patients.

CFS, also known as Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), is a complex and debilitating chronic illness that affects the brain and multiple body systems. Symptoms include incapacitating fatigue and problems with concentration and short-term memory. Millions of North Americans are thought to suffer from the disease.

McGowan will look specifically at the relationship between a system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and immune function. The HPA axis is involved in the regulation of the , and has effects on immune function and inflammation through cellular signaling mechanisms involving the steroid glucocorticoid.

McGowan's hypothesis is that there is an epigenetic mechanism in CFS that disrupts glucocorticoid signaling in white blood cells called lymphocytes. By studying tissue samples from the SolveCFS Biobank he hopes to pinpoint the mechanism.

Explore further: Study to reveal causes of chronic fatigue syndrome

Related Stories

Study to reveal causes of chronic fatigue syndrome

December 22, 2011
Scientists at the University of Liverpool are the first to use a new laboratory technique that could reveal the causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

B-lymphocyte depletion using the anti-CD20 antibody rituximab in chronic fatigue syndrome

October 20, 2011
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be alleviated by the anti-cancer drug Rituximab, suggesting that the source of the disease could lie in the immune system, according to a new study published Oct. 19 in the online journal ...

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome challenges patients, medical professionals

July 1, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- We all get a little tuckered out now and then, but when that tired feeling doesn’t go away with what’s considered normal rest and relaxation there are a myriad of medical conditions that can ...

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.