Deakin University will begin a comprehensive study investigating possible causes and treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
CFS is believed to affect about one per cent of Australians, yet no approved treatments are presently available.
Deakin’s five-year project will primarily be conducted through University Hospital, Geelong. It will investigate the cell profile of people with CFS.
Deakin’s Chair of Metabolic Diseases and study lead Professor Ken Walder said while there was little known about the illness and its causes, he was optimistic the research would provide some clarity.
“The causes of CFS are not well understood and, while many hypotheses exist, we don’t have a biomedical test to confirm diagnosis,” said professor Walder.
“Our research will have a big focus on mitochondria, the energy source in the cell. CFS is characterised by feelings of low energy, which suggests that the mitochondrial function is abnormal, but there has been very little research on this.
“By the five-year mark, we hope to have identified potential drug therapies and proceed to clinical testing in participants with CFS, hopefully bringing benefit to those suffering from this disorder within a decade.”
Chief executive officer of Emerge Australia, the national CFS organisation and project collaborator, Associate Professor Heidi Nicholl said the severity of the illness is often underestimated.
“Most people are surprised to hear of the severity of symptoms for many patients with CFS. In the most severe cases, patients are sensitive to light and sound, and unable to take part in any form of meaningful life.”
Associate Professor Nicholl said she believed the research would greatly increase medical understanding of CFS.
“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,” she said.
“Cutting edge technologies will allow us to better understand the mechanisms that contribute to the symptoms.
“We will then use a proven methodological approach to repurpose existing drugs for treating symptoms.”