$438,000 grant to investigate ME/CFS progression

Dr Natalie Eaton-Fitch, Associate Professor Leighton Barnden, Dr Kiran Thapaliya and Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik from the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED).

A Griffith University research team has successfully applied for a $438,000 ME Research UK grant to track the progression of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). 

The study will use an ultra-high field 7 Tesla (7T) MRI to capture a clearer depiction of brain regions and detect subtle brain changes in ME/CFS patients. 

Associate Professor Leighton Barnden from Griffith’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) will be Chief Investigator A in the study. 

“We’re hoping the 7T multimodal MRI approach will be instrumental in tracking the progression of the disease over a three-year period giving us a better understanding of the neurobiological basis of ME-CFS,” Associate Professor Barnden said.  

“By tracking disease progression, it should also help to identify potential biomarkers. 

“This grant will build upon our recently published unique findings in ME/CFS using this technology, which we have pioneered in this field on a national scale.” 

The data output garnered from the MRI will be regresses with the clinical symptoms data of ME/CFS patients. 

This information will help to identify specific brain regions that are involved in the disease process and explain how brain changes contribute to the symptoms of ME/CFS such as cognitive impairment, fatigue, and post-exertional malaise. 

NCNED Director Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik said the unique study could lend itself to a world-first in ME/CFS research. 

“The study using the 7T MRI will be one of the first to identify the most affected brain regions at different points in time,” she said. 

“This will determine whether the brain changes in ME/CFS are progressive or stable over time, understanding how ME/CFS affects various brain regions, and identifying some of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms.” 

The research team consists of Associate Professor Leighton Barnden (CIA), Dr Kiran Thapaliya (CIB), Dr Natalie Eaton-Fitch (CIC), and Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik (CID).