by Sasha Nimmo

Five Australian universities have joined together, along with the CFS Discovery Clinic, to form the ME/CFS Discovery Research Network or MDRN to collaborate and foster biomedical research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

The network includes:

The MDRN uses the Canadian Consensus Criteria for their research, an earlier version of the International Consensus Criteria for ME. Dr Don Lewis, part of the MDRN, is an author of both the Canadian and International Consensus Criteria. Dr Lewis is also a clinician at the CFS Discovery Clinic in Melbourne. Dr Lewis’ clinic supports ME research by providing access to patients, medical records and patient testing.

MDRN researchers collaborate with international researchers including scientists in the USA and Europe. MDRN researchers have discovered:

  1. A specific mitochondrial defect and compensatory increases in mitochondrial proteins, cellular stress signalling pathways and energy metabolism in cultured ME cells.
  2. Altered metabolite profiles in the serum of ME patient consistent with a shift in energy metabolism.
  3. Altered gut/stool microbiomes in ME patients.
  4. Genetic markers (SNPs) in genes involved in energy metabolism and mitochondrial function that are associated with ME.
  5. A simple, semiobjective clinical test (the Weighted Standing Test) to assess the severity of disease.

Collectively, members of the network have published 60 research papers on ME. Read more about their work including a potential biomarker Activin B, recent study on the link between immune dysfunction and metabolism; a weighted standing test to assess disability in people with ME; how amino acid deprivation affects pain; predisposition to ME; immune response disorder; autoimmune activity; dysbiosis in the intestinal microbiome; and more.

These discoveries have been made with the aid of small amounts of funding from patient donations and charitable foundations. They have combined with international discoveries to demonstrate clearly the biomedical nature of the disease.

On 8 December 2018, the MDRN will be holding the first workshop at La Trobe University bringing together scientists to present research and discuss the directions of their scientific work.