RICHLAND -- High-tech protein analysis done in Richland could lead to improvements in diagnosis and treatment of the little-understood chronic fatigue syndrome.
The analysis done at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the campus of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory identified a subset of proteins in the spinal fluid of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome that are not present in healthy patients.
The discovery also calls into question the belief of some scientists that chronic fatigue syndrome, with its debilitating fatigue, is an umbrella category that includes other diseases, including Lyme disease, that lingers after treatment.
Research was conducted by a team at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's medical school and a team led by Richard Smith at PNNL.
It relied on special protein separation techniques and high-powered mass spectrometry equipment at the Department of Energy's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
Investigators looked at the spinal fluid of 43 people who had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, 25 patients who had failed to completely recover from Lyme disease and 11 healthy people.
"Spinal fluid is like a liquid window to the brain," said Dr. Steven Schutzer of the New Jersey Medical School, in a statement.
Researchers found some of the same proteins in chronic fatigue syndrome and neurologic post treatment Lyme disease patients. But patients also had proteins unique to each condition, despite their similar symptoms.
Because some of the proteins found in the spinal fluid of chronic fatigue syndrome patients also are implicated in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, the results support the idea that chronic fatigue syndrome has an underlying neurological cause.
"These exciting findings are the tip of our research iceberg," Smith said in a statement. Newer techniques are being developed to allow researchers to learn more about chronic fatigue syndrome, lingering Lyme disease and other neurological diseases, he said.