ME / Chronic fatigue syndrome
UK to launch world's largest genetic study into chronic fatigue syndrome
Research aims to shine a light on condition that is believed to affect 250,000 people in UK
Tue 23 Jun 2020 00.01 BST
People with ME experience exhaustion that is not helped by rest. Photograph: Milkos/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The world’s largest genetic study into chronic fatigue syndrome is to be launched in the UK after receiving £3.2m of funding from the Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research.
The research aims to shine a light on the debilitating long-term condition, about which little is known, by collecting DNA samples from 20,000 people who have CFS, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
CFS is believed to affect about 250,000 people in the UK and has been estimated to cost the economy billions of pounds each year. Individuals experience exhaustion that is not helped by rest, with one in four so severely affected they are unable to leave the house and, frequently, unable to leave their bed. Other symptoms include, pain, mental fogginess, light and noise sensitivities, as well as trouble with memory and sleep. No effective treatment exists.
ME and the perils of internet activism
The DecodeME study is being led by a partnership of scientists and patients including Andy Devereux-Cooke. He said: “As someone living with ME/CFS, I’m well aware that the patient community has waited a long time for a study such as this one that has such a strong, genuine element of patient involvement. All of us involved with this research project hope that it can start to address the totally unwarranted stigma and lack of understanding that so many patients with ME/CFS face on a daily basis.”
The hope is the study will aid development of diagnostic tests and targeted treatments by pinpointing tiny differences in a person’s DNA that may affect their risk of developing CFS and reveal the underlying causes of the condition.
The samples will be compared with a similar number of non-CFS matched controls, which could be drawn from the UK Biobank.
Principal investigator Prof Chris Ponting from the human genetics unit at the University of Edinburgh said: “Our focus will be on DNA differences that increase a person’s risk of becoming ill with ME/CFS. We chose to study DNA because significant differences between people with, and without, ME/CFS must reflect a biological cause of the illness. It is our hope that this study will transform ME/CFS research by injecting much-needed robust evidence into the field.”
People with CFS who are aged 16 and over can volunteer to take part from home by signing up on the study website. When it begins, they will be mailed a collection kit and asked to send back a saliva sample, which will be compared with those from healthy controls.
Genome-wide association studies have previously helped uncover the biological roots of many other complex diseases, including type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Join us to help create the world’s biggest study of the causes of ME/CFS
We are the ME/CFS Biomedical Partnership, a collaboration between researchers and people with ME/CFS, carers and the public.
The DecodeME DNA study aims to help us understand the disease and ultimately find treatments.
We have secured funding for a very large study to analyse DNA from the saliva of people with ME/CFS to see whether the disease is partly genetic and if so, help pinpoint what causes it. The study should help us understand the disease and ultimately find treatments.
We need 20,000 participants – and people to help us find them. If you’re interested, please let us know now, so that when the study launches in early 2021, we can start reaching out to potential participants and collecting samples immediately.
It will be a huge challenge to do the largest ever biomedical study of ME/CFS so we need your help – whether you have ME/CFS or not!
The largest ever DNA study of ME/CFS
We’re focusing on recruiting from the UK for now and are already well on our way with early sign-ups. But we’ll expand to other countries if necessary, so if you’re outside the UK, please do sign up now. You must be 16 or over to take part.
The study is being led by Professor Chris Ponting of the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit at the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with the UK ME/CFS Biobank at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
People with ME/CFS are at the heart of the study, with a patient and a carer as co-investigators alongside the scientists and a steering group of people with the illness, carers and charities. The work is funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research.
To find out more about the study you can read our latest updates, FAQs and our explanation of the science.
This is an historic opportunity for people with ME/CFS and we look forward to working with you to make it happen.
Complete this short form to get involved:
Whether you would like to take part in the study or just receive our email newsletters, please complete the form below.
United KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntigua & BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBonaireBosnia & HerzegovinaBotswanaBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerBruneiBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCanary IslandsCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChannel IslandsChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos IslandColombiaComorosCongoCook IslandsCosta RicaCote DIvoireCroatiaCubaCuracaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEast TimorEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland IslandsFaroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreat BritainGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuyanaHaitiHawaiiHondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndonesiaIndiaIranIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea NorthKorea SouthKuwaitKyrgyzstanLaosLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacauMacedoniaMadagascarMalaysiaMalawiMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMidway IslandsMoldovaMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNambiaNauruNepalNetherland AntillesNetherlands (Holland, Europe)NevisNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalau IslandPalestinePanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairn IslandPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarRepublic of MontenegroRepublic of SerbiaReunionRomaniaRussiaRwandaSt BarthelemySt EustatiusSt HelenaSt Kitts-NevisSt LuciaSt MaartenSt Pierre & MiquelonSt Vincent & GrenadinesSaipanSamoaSamoa AmericanSan MarinoSao Tome & PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyriaTahitiTaiwanTajikistanTanzaniaThailandTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad & TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks & Caicos IsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited States of AmericaUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVatican City StateVenezuelaVietnamVirgin Islands (Brit)Virgin Islands (USA)Wake IslandWallis & Futana IsYemenZaireZambiaZimbabwe
If you have ME/CFS, would you be willing to take part in a study investigating the genetics of the condition? Please note your response does not commit you to doing anything. When the study is ready to go, we will ask you whether you’d like to take part.
I don’t have ME/CFS but I’d like to receive updates about the study
If you have ME/CFS, please tell us your age range by choosing one of the following: