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Vol. LX, No. 17
August 22, 2008

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ORWH Meeting Examines Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  Principal investigators meet to discuss interdisciplinary approaches to CFS.  
  Principal investigators meet to discuss interdisciplinary approaches to CFS.  

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a mysterious and debilitating disease that affects approximately 1 million to 4 million Americans. Despite years of research into CFS, the disorder remains poorly understood. The first annual meeting of “Neuroimmune Mechanisms and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Principal Investigators” was recently held at NIH. Sponsored by the Office of Research on Women’s Health, the meeting brought together grantees who are working to prove the contributions of the immune and nervous systems to CFS pathophysiology.

“We are all here to look at your findings and learn from your experiences with the goal of producing an interdisciplinary [group] of researchers who will find answers that will help patients who suffer from CFS and a host of other correlated diseases that are difficult, debilitating and frustrating,” said Dr. Eleanor Hanna, associate director for special projects and centers for ORWH. “By the time the first round of grants is completed, if not sooner, we hope researchers will be engaged in new cross-disciplinary partnerships that maximize the NIH funding investment.”

On the premise that chronic fatigue could best be understood in terms of central nervous system (CNS) functioning, ORWH sponsored a trans-NIH workshop, “Neuroimune Mechanisms and CFS: Will Understanding CNS Mechanisms Enhance the Search for the Causes, Consequences and Treatment of CFS?” The investigators were those successful in competing for the Request for Application from a 2003 CFS workshop. The RFP produced grants funded through ORWH and administered by several NIH institutes.

PIs from across the country summarized their most recent work and participated in a team-building exercise. Discussion focused on integrating the presentations with groundbreaking work from the Hultgren Laboratory of Washington University on the hypothesis that an original infectious insult might affect and perpetuate the many symptoms of CFS.

Next steps include developing a standard toolkit, similar vocabulary and standard tests for every research participant; challenging some of the historical beliefs about the origins of CFS through the use of new technology; establishing a web site to provide open access and to share the same set of instruments with the goal of pooling data; and establishing training grants in order to encourage other investigators to enter the field.—

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