In an invited post on UK charity Action for ME’s blog, Professor George Davey Smith of Bristol University has told patients that the UK’s planned, major ME/CFS project, the Grand Challenge could “herald a new era in ME research”.
Action for ME’s CEO, Sonya Chowdhury, described the project, which was announced at October’s UK CFS/ME Research Collaborative (CMRC) conference, as “a very high-level science-led endeavour”.
In his post, Professor Davey Smith said that the national study will examine 10,000 biological samples to “help obtain clear answers to some of the basic questions that can be asked in large-scale databases”.
Large studies of this type were, he said, “the latest trend in population-based scientific research and are the way to generate the most useful data and the most productive research. Previous small studies… have not really helped to advance knowledge”.
He added that “involving some researchers in the Grand Challenge who do not have a background in ME means that they do not bring any preconceptions on particular hypotheses” and that “in genetic studies that utilise whole-genome data there is no single hypothesis that is tested, rather the whole genome is explored, meaning that findings are unbiased”.
Explaining the potential benefits for patients who are already ill, Professor Davey Smith said, “Knowing more about how biological and environmental factors affect ME symptoms could show us what we might be able to do to change the course of ME over time…. Additional data in the related fields of epigenetics and metabolomics can tell us about pathways which might be involved, which can also be useful for considering how to alleviate symptoms.”
Professor Davey Smith is internationally known as a leading figure in epidemiology and his recent commitment to ME/CFS research has been widely welcomed. Ms Chowdhury said that Action for ME were “delighted” that he had been so keen to get involved.
A recent BBC national radio interview with Professor Davey Smith included a discussion of his interest in genetics and health. A detailed account of his lecture on large-scale genetic data and the Grand Challenge, given at the UK CMRC conference, can be found here.
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