Meet Jonas Bergquist, Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Neurochemistry at Uppsala University, in a conversation in the series UppTalk Weekly about ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) which is considered to be one of the world’s most debilitating illnesses. What are researchers doing to get closer to understanding the origins of the disease and how it can be treated?
In this episode of UppTalk Weekly Jonas Bergquist, Professor of Analytical Chemistry and Neurochemistry at the Department of Chemistry – BMC, talks about his research on the disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome. It is a complex multi-systemic disease that affects the nervous system, the immune system, and energy production. There are currently an estimated 10,000 to 40,000 people in Sweden suffering from ME, the cause of which is yet to be discovered.
Nearly two years ago, Professor Jonas Bergquist was involved in starting a research centre in Uppsala, in collaboration with Stanford and Harvard among others, to try to get closer to solving the mystery of ME. At the centre, his research team is investigating whether there are certain biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid of ME patients that might reveal chronic neuroinflammation.
“By mapping the chemistry in the fluid surrounding the brain, we can better understand certain diseases that affect the central nervous system. We have also looked at whether there is an autoimmune aspect to it all, that is, the formation of antibodies against endogenous substances and the immune system being overactivated.”
As there is no general treatment model for ME, the disease is treated on an individual basis. The patient undergoes a detailed assessment to rule out other diseases and is given support to adapt their daily life. Currently, there is no medicinal cure, however, medication can provide some alleviation of the most severe symptoms.
There are also new treatment types, some of which involve low doses of steroids. One alternative treatment with quite promising results is gamma globulin injections. Surprisingly, this treatment is based on instilling antibodies and thus potentially triggering of immune system activity.
“Among the patients who have received this treatment, some have responded quite well to the treatment. The reasons for this are still unclear, but one possible explanation is that the body’s own immune system is diverted and provided with something else to work on for a period of time.”
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UppTalk Weekly is an education and outreach science seminar series via Zoom offering interesting conversations and interdisciplinary panel discussions each week with researchers from Uppsala University. The conversations focus on socially relevant topics. UppTalk Weekly is free, online, and for everyone.