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Research Digest 23/08/19

Welcome to the 30th Emerge Australia Research Digest, where you will find summaries of some of the latest research and information about ME/CFS, with links to the complete articles.

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Mitochondrial alterations in NK lymphocytes from ME/CFS patients

Authors: Silvestre I, Dagda RY, Dagda RK, Darley-Usmar V.


Previous research has shown that ME/CFS patients have impaired natural killer (NK) cell activity. These cells are a critical first line of defense against viruses and cancer. Subsequently patients with ME/CFS may have issues controlling viral infections and may have an increased chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Mitochondria dysfunction has also been reported in ME/CFS patients and this research examines the mitochondrial metabolism in NK cells within ME/CFS patients.  

The results showed that two main energy- generating mitochondrial pathways, oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis are deregulated. Additionally, alterations in the morphology and membrane potential of the mitochondria of NK cells have also been observed.

To date, this is the first study looking into the mitochondria of NK cells for ME/CFS patients and may have the potential to be a new diagnostic tool for the illness.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome induced by repeated forced swimming in mice

Authors: Ohba T, Domoto S, Tanaka M, Nakamura S, Shimazawa M, Hara H.


Recent research suggests the involvement of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) in ME/CFS. PDH is a crucial enzyme involved in energy production in the mitochondria, which affects glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation (energy production mechanisms).

In this study, researchers induced symptoms in mice by repeated forced swimming tests and examined PDH activities and the potential efficacy of sodium dichloroacetate (DCA). Results showed that PDH activity was impaired following forced swimming tests. Additionally, researchers administered (DCA) and found subsequent increases in PDH activity and lower level of fatigue symptoms in mice models.

Overall, the study provides evidence of a correlation between PDH level and ME/CFS symptoms in mice, as well as the effect of DCA and its ability to reduce these symptoms.

Assessing cellular energy dysfunction in CFS/ME using a commercially available laboratory test

Authors: Tomas C, Lodge T, Potter M, Elson J, Newton J, Morten K.


The Mitochondrial Energy Score (MES) test was devised by the Myhill group in 2009 and marketed as a way to diagnose ME/CFS. A joint study by researchers at Newcastle and Oxford Universities has confirmed that the test does not have the reproducibility and reliability to accurately diagnose ME/CFS. 
The MES test is based on recognising mitochondrial dysfunction in ME/CFS patients by measuring:

cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) concentration in the presence of excess magnesium
ATP concentration in the absence of excess magnesium
the ATP ratio between cells in the presence of excess magnesium versus the absence of excess magnesium
the adenosine diphosphate (ADP)  to ATP conversion efficiency.
However, no difference was found between the people with ME/CFS and healthy controls. Instead, the differences found by the Myhill group are proposed to be from differences in sample processing times between patient and healthy control samples.
Anna spends 22 hours a day in bed. But experts hope that they are close to a cure

Author: Cunningham M.


This feature story in The Age covers the story of Anna Kerr, a once active mother who is currently battling with ME/CFS. The article formed a key part of the announcement of the $1 million Australian Biobank and patient registry research initiative for ME/CFS funded by the Mason Foundation.

Anna Kerr, a 48-year-old mother of two, a psychologist with 15 years of clinical experience and a once active person, developed ME/CFS after her first pregnancy. The article discusses ME/CFS as a devastating and often misunderstood condition affecting up to 250,000 people in Australia. It also talked about new-found hope created by the $1million biobank initiative that will carry out research into the illness.

The funding for the biobank will allow researchers to examine DNA samples, tissue and blood cells of ME/CFS patients to identify biological and molecular abnormalities. This program has been described as a ‘game-changer’ by Professor Paul Fisher, Head of Microbiology at La Trobe University.

For more news on the biobank and to find a patient sign-up to express interest, please go to

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