ME/CFS Biomedical Partnership: Genetics and Biomarkers

Prof Chris Ponting

This is the working title for a partnership of researchers, including Professor Chris Ponting of the UK CMRC, and Dr Luis Nacul of the Cure ME UK ME/CFS Biobank (UKMEB) team and ME/CFS patients, carers and public.

Early in 2020, the partnership will make a grant application to the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for a very large genetic study, a genome-wide association study, and a major expansion of the UKMEB.

The Medical Research Council (MRC) will fund a workshop later this month (November 2019) to help the Partnership explore how to make its application as robust as possible.

The plan:

  • The Partnership will apply for funding for a large genetics study as well as an

    Dr Luis Nacul

    expansion of the UK/MECFS Biobank

  • If funded, the genetics study will require saliva samples from 20,000 patients.
  • The study will look for the potential genetic cause(s) of ME/CFS.
  • Submitting a sample will be made as easy as possible in order to enable as many patients as possible to take part.
  • Patients, and their representatives, will form an important part of the Partnership.

What is a genome-wide association study?

A genome-wide association study (GWAS) is a very large genetic study that seeks to uncover some of the biological roots of ME/CFS. By probing small DNA differences among people, a GWAS can help to pinpoint the genetic causes of disease and then can help to guide drug development.

This design has previously proved helpful in identifying genes together with molecular and cellular pathways that contribute to disease risk.

To work well, the study needs to recruit around 20,000 patients whose DNA will be compared with that of similar numbers of non-ME/CFS matched controls(i.e. people from a similar population but who do not have ME/CFS).

More information:

MRC: ME/CFS Workshop – 2019

The ME/CFS Biomedical Partnership: Genetics and Biomarkers – Genome-wide association study: questions & answers

Cure ME: A Collaborative Research Proposal with the CMRC

ME Association: MRC/NIHR Workshop

Action for ME: ME/CFS Biomedical Partnership to apply for funding 

ME Research UK: ME/CFS Biomedical Partnership to apply for funding

ME/CFS Research review: Bold plans for two big biomedical research projects

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