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Suzanne Vernon discusses study on pH and muscle function

Discussion in 'Latest ME/CFS Research' started by dmarie4301, May 3, 2010.

  1. dmarie4301

    dmarie4301 Guest

    CFIDSLink May2010: Litmus TestShare.. Today at 3:24pm
    By Suzanne D. Vernon, PhD
    Scientific Director, The CFIDS Association of America

    From the May 2010 CFIDSLink:

    The litmus test is one of the oldest methods for testing pH to determine the acidity or base of a substance. A research team from University of Newcastle published a paper titled, "Abnormalities in pH handling by peripheral muscle and potential regulation by the autonomic nervous system in chronic fatigue syndrome" in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Senior author Julia L. Newton has published a number of quality papers describing autonomic nervous system (ANS) abnormalities in CFS. In this current publication, her team attempts to understand some of the mechanisms that may be responsible for post-exertion physical fatigue and ANS abnormalities that are common in CFS patients. Based on knowledge of exercise physiology obtained from healthy individuals, they determined how muscles in 16 CFS patients handled protons, compared to eight sex- and age-matched controls. Here is what they found.

    When muscles work during exercise, a temporary acid (low pH) environment is created because the muscle cells pump out protons. Pumping out protons is known as “proton efflux” and it requires cellular energy in the form of ATP. Healthy muscles are able to quickly equilibrate to a neutral pH once the work is complete.

    Dr. Newton’s team used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) coupled with an exercise paradigm to determine how muscle protons were behaving in CFS and controls. All subjects performed plantar flexion (bending the foot at the ankle) while in the imaging scanner and photophlethysmography was used to assess heart rate variability. The control subjects displayed normal muscle physiology with a decrease in proton efflux over time following plantar flexion. On the other hand, CFS patients had abnormal proton efflux that was significantly suppressed following exercise and significantly prolonged. This suggests significant impairment in proton handling and muscle recovery kinetics. The normal proton efflux observed in healthy controls closely correlated with heart rate variability indicated a relationship with muscle pH. However, this relationship between pH and heart rate variability was lost in CFS patients.

    I am intrigued by this study because it uses powerful imaging technology to measure basic physiology processes that are necessary for proper muscle function, coupled with an exercise paradigm to assess this function - a noninvasive assessment at the atomic level - how cool is that! These investigators documented a significant difference in the way that muscle in CFS patients handles protons compared to healthy controls. This correlated with ANS dysfunction in the CFS patients. Why CFS patients have this inability to efficiently pump out protons is not known, but the resultant physiologic imbalance could be sending inappropriate signals that are picked up by the ANS and causing the autonomic disturbances that many CFS patients experience. I also like this paper because it may help explain some of the other research that we have heard about lately (and that the Association funds!) including the elevated lactate in the brain cerebrospinal fluid and the blood ion channel receptors.

    To hear more about why I think this study is important, and how some of these pieces fit together, please tune in to tomorrow's webinar. (See description and registration at

    I dont know what can be done about this, but I definitely can relate to what she's talking about. I can never bring my pH levels up no matter how much juicing I do, or oxygen products I consume. And when I walk, I feel like my muscles are being shut off from their oxygen some level, the muscles just arent responding correctly to activity.
  2. Cort

    Cort Phoenix Rising Founder

    It's going to take me awhile to wrap my head around this but there are two research subjects in ME/CFS that I dearly, dearly - autonomic nervous system functioning and exercise testing.
    She's such a 'techno-geek' :).. I think there must be something going on at the muscle level.

    Love to see the pieces going together.
  3. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

    They have speculated that the body and brain is misinterpreting symptoms but technically that's not what they found (although I can understand how people can be confused as they did not make this sufficiently clear): they found abnormalities in pain receptors in muscles and claimed that because there was nothing abnormal in the muscles (quoting one study in the paper), that the system must have gone dysfunctional in some way. However, a much simpler explanation is that there is something abnormal in the muscle e.g. to do with the pH, etc.

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