Substrate utilisation of cultured skeletal muscle cells in patients with CFS, by Cara Tomas, Joanna L Elson, Julia L Newton, Mark Walker in Scientific Reports Vol 10, no. 18232, October 26, 2020


Research abstract: 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients often suffer from severe muscle pain and an inability to exercise due to muscle fatigue. It has previously been shown that CFS skeletal muscle cells have lower levels of ATP and have AMP-activated protein kinase dysfunction.

This study outlines experiments looking at the utilisation of different substrates by skeletal muscle cells from CFS patients (n=9) and healthy controls (n=11) using extracellular flux analysis. Results show that CFS skeletal muscle cells are unable to utilise glucose to the same extent as healthy control cells. CFS skeletal muscle cells were shown to oxidise galactose and fatty acids normally, indicating that the bioenergetic dysfunction lies upstream of the TCA cycle.

The dysfunction in glucose oxidation is similar to what has previously been shown in blood cells from CFS patients. The consistency of cellular bioenergetic dysfunction in different  cell types supports the hypothesis that CFS is a systemic  disease. The retention of bioenergetic defects in cultured cells indicates that there is a genetic or epigenetic component to the disease.

This is the first study to use cells derived from skeletal muscle biopsies in CFS patients and healthy controls to look at cellular bioenergetic function in whole cells.

ME Research UK: Use of glucose for energy production in muscle cells from patients with ME/CFS

Key findings

    • Muscle cells from people with ME/CFS are less able to use glucose as a fuel to produce energy
    • This impairment in energy production may underlie the muscle fatigue that is characteristic of the illness
    • These results help narrow down where in the metabolic pathway the abnormality occurs
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