World-first laboratory study finds low-dose Naltrexone may improve ME/CFS symptoms

Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Don Staines.
Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik and Don Staines from the National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases.

Researchers at Griffith University’s National Centre for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases (NCNED) have announced a world first-discovery in the diagnosis and treatment of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

Published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, the researchers found that patients with ME/CFS taking low-dose Naltrexone (LDN 3.0-5.0mg/day) show significant improvements in cell function in a laboratory study using a model of natural killer (NK) cells from patients.

“While previous reports have been anecdotal for the benefits of LDN, no scientific data identifying the cellular mechanism for this potential treatment have been published previously,” says NCNED Co-Director Professor Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik.

“This is the first in vitro study confirming the efficacy and therapeutic benefit of LDN for ME/CFS patients by characterising the underlying regulatory mechanisms of LDN treatment involving a calcium (Ca2+) ion channel called TRPM3 and opioid receptor interaction in NK cells.”

Calcium is vital to cellular processes and entry to cells is critically controlled by these calcium channels. NK cells are part of the innate immune system and provide an internationally recognised model for estimating loss of function in calcium signalling systems.

“We now further understand that the pathophysiology of ME/CFS is due to ion channel dysfunction and the interaction of the opioid receptor that causes impaired Ca2+ signalling and Ca2+-mediated cell functions, including immune function,” Professor Marshall-Gradisnik said.

NCNED Co Director Professor Donald Staines said their data supported the hypothesis that LDN has potential as a treatment for ME/CFS by characterising the underlying regulatory mechanisms of LDN treatment.

“This study serves to support the repurposing of marketed drugs and support prospective randomised clinical trials using Naltrexone in treating ME/CFS patients,” he said.

The world-first scientific research study was achieved using the gold standard of Patch Clamp electrophysiology (PCE) which examines cellular ion currents in pathophysiology and potential pharmacotherapeutics in selected cells from ME/CFS patients and healthy control volunteers.

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