Each month we scour the Internet and bring you a list of news articles, blogs and research publications we think you’ll find interesting. Occasionally, we’ll highlight and summarize a few of them for you, like these:
Cytokines are small powerful signaling proteins. A variety of cell types in our bodies produce and release cytokines to signal another cell to respond in particular way. Cytokines are present at low levels and when needed for an immune and inflammatory response the levels can increase dramatically. A familiar group of cytokines is called interleukins abbreviated as IL-1, IL-2, IL-3, etc. Each signals a specific response in the target cell. The specific signals and changes in levels make cytokines potentially useful for diagnosis and to guide treatment.Cytokines are involved in many diseases including ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. A group led by Michael Houghton at the University of Alberta just published what is one of the most important cytokine papers for ME/CFS to date titled “Reductions in circulating levels of IL-16, IL-7 and VEGF-A in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome”. They tested more than 30 different cytokines and found that decreases these 3 cytokines was a pattern that was specific to ME/CFS. What makes this study important is they tried to find this 3 cytokine pattern in other chronic infectious and autoimmune diseases and couldn’t. When a test can identify a particular disease it has diagnostic potential.
Houghton and his team will work with the Bateman Horne Center in an attempt to confirm these exciting results by testing large numbers of blood samples from patients with ME/CFS, patients referred to Bateman Horne Center but not meeting ME/CFS criteria and healthy volunteers. The test has diagnostic potential if it identifies the ME/CFS patients and not the other groups.
Energy is produced in our body by mitochondria – the “powerhouses” of the cell. Disease can occur when there are interruptions and disruptions to energy production. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in the chronic widespread pain and debilitating fatigue experienced by ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia patients. It is hypothesized that when mitochondria are not functioning properly there is increased oxidative stress that causes damage to other cells and tissues in the body. This has made the use of anti-oxidants potential approach to help restore balance and mitochondrial function. But we now know that a balance between oxidative stress and anti-oxidants is important and this has instigated the search for factors besides anti-oxidants to help restore mitochondrial function.
A team led by Takehiro Suzuki et al, at Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering hypothesized that if energy in the form of ATP could be increased inside the mitochondria function could be improved. They identified Mitochonic Acid 5 (MA-5) which was derived from a plant hormone and showed that MA-5 increased ATP and improved the health of fibroblast cells – the most common cell type found in connective tissue. The team conducted an elegant study to determine how MA-5 could increase ATP and help mitochondria function. They found that not only did MA-5 increase energy production within cells it also reduced oxidative stress. MA-5 does this in part by targeting mitofilin, a protein that is part of a complex found in the inner mitochondrial membranes (called cristae; see diagram). How this interaction between MA-5 and mitofilin increases ATP production will require further research. The mechanism of action for MA-5 is different from how antioxidants work and offers a potential novel treatment strategy for diseases like ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia where mitochondrial dysfunction in implicated.
As a guest on Charlie Rose, Dr. Collins discusses the potential of precision medicine, the significant progress in cancer research, gene editing, the BRAIN Initiative, and NIH’s role in funding biomedical research. Sixteen minutes into the show Charlie asks Dr. Collins about a recent “Chronic Fatigue” announcement. Collins talked about the ME/CFS IOM report, describing the debility of the illness and clearly stated the NIH has decided to “make a big push to try to get some answers”, using some of the new approaches mentioned earlier in the show – “Precision Medicine” project that they have undertaken at the request of President Obama. http://www.charlierose.com/watch/60644053