Mitochondrial dysfunction in chronic fatigue

Mitochondrial dysfunction and the pathophysiology of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

Abstract

The objectives of this study are to test the hypothesis that the fatigue and accompanying symptoms of Chronic Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Fatigue Syndrome are in part due to defects in energy provision at the cellular level, and to understand the pathophysiology of the defects so that effective medical intervention can be implemented. We performed an audit of 138 patients (ages 18-65) diagnosed with ME/CFS and attending a private practice. The patients and 53 normal, healthy controls had the ATP Profile test carried out on neutrophils from a 3-ml venous blood sample. This test yields 6 numerical factors that describe the availability of ATP and the efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria. Other biomedical measurements, including the concentration of cell-free DNA in plasma, were made. The results of the audit are compared with the controls and a previous cohort of 61 patients. We find that all patients tested have measureable mitochondrial dysfunction which correlates with the severity of the illness. The patients divide into two main groups differentiated by how cellular metabolism attempts to compensate for the dysfunction. Comparisons with exercise studies suggest that the dysfunction in neutrophils also occurs in other cells. This is confirmed by the cell-free DNA measurements which indicate levels of tissue damage up to 3.5 times the normal reference range. The major immediate causes of the dysfunction are lack of essential substrates and partial blocking of the translocator protein sites in mitochondria. The ATP Profile is a valuable diagnostic tool for the clinical management of ME/CFS.

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