The National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) has been awarded $1.46 million in National Health and Medical Research Council funding for research into myalgic encephalomyelitis /chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Part of Griffith University’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland , the centre’s researchers will investigate potential diagnostic tests as well as suitable pharmaco-therapeutic interventions.

NCNED Co-Director Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik said the project will, for the first time, address NHMRC priorities to discover the pathophysiology of the disabling illness.

“It will pave the way for diagnostic tests and treatments using highly innovative research techniques known as patch-clamp electrophysiology,’’ she said.

“Our researchers have pioneered a technique known as patch-clamp electrophysiology used in ME/CFS studies demonstrating impaired calcium ion channels as a contributing cause of the pathology.”

“These ion channels, known as Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) ion channels are associated with pathology in a number of neurological and other illnesses.”

The national and international project brings together the University of Western Australia, Queensland University of Technology, WHO’s Australian Rickettsial Research Laboratory, Geelong and consumer groups around Australia.

It also links a number of overseas institutions including chief investigators and researchers in USA, including the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC and researchers in Japan, Poland, and the UK).

“The collaboration of leading research institutions will set the scene for unparalleled international cooperation in this research field.”

NCNED Co-Director Professor Donald Staines said understanding the pathology of ME/CFS through this NHMRC grant should open up investigation of treatment opportunities for patients.

“We are extremely grateful for the enormous support and participation from patients to progress our ground-breaking research into this illness,’’ he said.

“This substantial NHMRC grant demonstrates the ongoing commitment of scientific research in Australia for ME/CFS and the achievement of NCNED’s success through the support of a number of philanthropic and research funding bodies along with MHIQ and Griffith University,” MHIQ Director Professor Paul Scuffham said.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) — is a complex illness characterised by impaired memory and concentration, metabolic, cardiac, gut and immune dysfunction and debilitating muscle pain and fatigue. There is no known universal treatment for this illness that affects up to 240,000 Australians.