This past May, several Nevadans, including NVCBR board member Nancy Ghusn, Julia Abts and her daughter Kendal, and NVCBR President and CEO Annette Whittemore, traveled to Washington, DC, to join other advocates from around the country in support of increased federal research funding. The Solve CFS Initiative organized this country-wide effort and kept things running smoothly throughout the trip. We were fortunate to meet with Senator Heller in person at a time when Congress was extremely busy considering the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. We also met with Senator Cortez-Masto’s and Congressman Amodei’s aids in an attempt to educate them of the dire need for more research funding. While no promises were made with regards to funding, the Nevada representatives indicated that they would help with the support of congressional report language. We are pleased that Nevada’s congressional members recently followed through by signing a letter in support of ME/CFS funding. It is encouraging to know that our Nevada representatives are well informed and committed to helping the millions of Americans who are impacted by ME/CFS.
Last spring, the NVCBR team wrote an extensive U54 grant to advance the diagnosis and treatment of ME/CFS through a collaborative research center to study ME/CFS with an emphasis on biomarker discovery and dysregulation of the gastrointestinal mucosal immune system. Although NVCBR was not chosen as one of the three research center sites, we will continue to pursue these critical areas of research.
Like the many other researchers in this field who were not chosen by the NIH to receive grant funding, NVCBR researchers must rely heavily on private donations to keep their critical research studies moving forward. Included in NVCBR’s list of promising studies are plans to create a mouse model of the disease and a gut study to determine the role of the mucosal immune system and the microbiome in ME/CFS. These studies will be integral in determining which treatments would be most effective before conducting human trials.
Significantly, past NVCBR research studies have resulted in the discovery of a unique set of antibody biomarkers that were found to identify ME/CFS patients from controls with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity. This signature could lead to the development of the first clinical diagnostic blood test for ME/CFS. NVCBR’s collaboration with Arizona State University researchers brought expert scientists into this field who had not been involved in this disease before our collaborative antibody study. Studies are continuing in an effort to identify the most important factors driving the antibody responses. This information will add to our understanding of the causes of disease and to better treatments.
Open dialogue between research organizations remains a possibility and a dream of those whose loved ones are still suffering from lack of effective treatments and the medical ignorance that continues to surround this disease. We know that it is really only a matter of time and will power. But time is passing quickly. It is our greatest hope that researchers around the world will agree to come together to form a world-wide alliance. If and when this occurs, we will be able to achieve our goals much more quickly and with much less cost to each organization.
August 18, 2017
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
The Grove at South Creek
Join Nevada Center for Biomedical Research (NVCBR) in support of scientific discovery and treat yourself to an entertaining evening at The Grove at South Creek!
Indulge in delectable food created by talented chefs at The Grove while enjoying delicious champagne and wine donated by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. Between tastings, browse a silent auction and listen to live music performed by The Socks, a Reno-based instrumental duo specializing in unplugged versions of great alternative rock hits, as well as their own original songs.
Your generous donation will support NVCBR’s research studies focused on a spectrum of complex disabling diseases. Our current research is closing in on a diagnostic blood test for ME/CFS. These innovative studies are also providing key information about the causes of disease.
Buy your tickets in advance and save!
This year we’re using mobile bidding for our auction. To bid on items, register at https://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/Bidders/register.cfm. You can bid online now at http://www.biddingowl.com/Auction/index.cfm?auctionID=11903.
Bid early and bid often in support of scientific discovery!
by Cort Johnson | Mar 21, 2017
A Different Look at the Immune System
The ultimate goal of this work is the development of a non-subjective clinical tool for diagnosing patients with ME. Lombardi et. al.
Last month Health Rising looked at a potential ion channel biomarker coming out of the NCNED in Australia. This month brings yet another potential biomarker hailing from the Nevada Center for Biomedical Research (formerly WPI) at the University of Reno. Time will tell if either turns out. In the meantime it’s good to see ME/CFS research centers using innovative techniques to look at this disease in entirely new ways.
Immunosignatures use antibody activity to get an idea of what the immune system is reacting to. The idea is that B-cells are involved in some way in most immune responses. Finding which peptides or antigens the antibodies in a person’s blood bind to could tell us what the immune system is reacting to. If ME/CFS is, at least in part, an immune disease, immunosignature research could tell us much. This approach has been used to provide diagnostic biomarkers for cancer, Valley fever, Alzheimer’s disease and others.
Talk about casting a large net. First antibodies are incubated with or exposed to thousands or in the case of this study over 100,000 randomly generated peptides (short-chains of amino acids). Because so many different peptides are used, the immunosignatures produced by this technique can be highly sensitive (i.e. highly accurate in identifying patients). They’re far more sensitive than say an ELISA blood test that might sum the contributions of several antibodies.
The technology used to produce immunosignatures is also very robust; a single drop of blood blotted on some paper and sent through the mail can suffice. It’s also potentially much more stable than the cytokine studies that have, at times, been so variable in ME/CFS. Because antibodies are much more stable than cytokines (they last longer in the body), they might yield better results. Read More
Physicians lack effective tools to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of those who are impacted by ME/CFS, a complex and often disabling disease. That could change now that scientists at Nevada Center for Biomedical Research (NVCBR) have taken the first step in developing a clinical assay for diagnosing ME/CFS patients through the creation of an antibody immune signature.
The work was conducted in collaboration with Drs. Stephen Johnston and Phillip Stafford, at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Innovations in Medicine, and Drs. Karen Schlauch and Richard Tillet, from the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as other researchers from around the world.
The group’s findings recently appeared in the prestigious journal Molecular Neurobiology https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12035-016-0334-0
The immune system produces proteins called antibodies that bind to the surface of pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, to neutralize the pathogens. Occasionally, this system becomes dysregulated and produces antibodies to our own tissue, resulting in autoimmunity. Utilizing a microchip comprised of thousands of small random protein sequences (referred to as random peptides), researchers at NVCBR, in collaboration with the scientists at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, screened blood sera from ME/CFS cases and healthy controls, from two geographic distinct cohorts, and identified a diagnostic pattern of antibody/peptide binding that identifies ME/CFS patients with high specificity and sensitivity.
“The purpose of screening sera with a random peptide array is to identify things that our body sees as foreign such as the molecules that make up pathogens or the proteins of our own tissue, in the context of autoimmunity,” explained Dr. Vincent Lombardi, NVCBR Research Director. “Now that we have identified a group of random peptides that differentially bind with the antibodies of ME/CFS patients, our next challenge is to figure out what antigens these random peptides represent in the real world. Much can be learned about the causes of this disease once the antigens are accurately identified.”
Dr. Lombardi originally conceived of the project with the aim of identifying potential pathogens associated with ME/CFS as well as autoantigens. In addition to identifying prospective pathogen-associated antigens and autoantigens, the data also produced an immunosignature that can accurately identify ME/CFS patients from healthy controls. Future in-depth analysis of these data will help researchers determine which antigens are most relevant to the disease process and whether or not there are existing treatments available to target the implicated biochemical pathways.
Going forward, NVCBR researchers intend to confirm the work using a larger ME/CFS cohort as well as other disease cohorts with overlapping symptomology such as multiple sclerosis. The immunosignature technology, developed by ASU, has been used successfully with other neuroimmune diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.
“The goal of our research program is to ascertain the underlying mechanisms of neuroimmune disease as well as identify disease-related biomarkers and more effective treatments for the patients,” stated Dr. Lombardi. “A robust immunosignature of ME/CFS would help achieve these goals.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a request for Center grant proposals, with a promise to fund two to three regional ME/CFS Collaborative Research Centers as early as September 2017. The NVCBR research team and their collaborators are working hard to create a competitive proposal based on the knowledge that they have gained through their many revealing studies.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to apply for major federal research support on behalf of all of those who suffer the disabling effects of ME/CFS,” stated Annette Whittemore, President and CEO of NVCBR. “We have always hoped that the federal government would support comprehensive research centers across America. We applaud the National Institutes of Health, particularly Director Dr. Francis Collins and Program Director Dr. Vicky Whittemore, for their commitment to funding comprehensive ME/CFS research centers in addition to other promising ME/CFS research proposals.”
The plan appears to be similar to the ACE (Autism Centers of Excellence) program, which currently comprises three research centers and eight research networks around the United States. Networks such as these have been instrumental to research progress in many other diseases. They can help shorten the time it takes to biologically define a disease and encourage pharmaceutical research and development of effective treatments, something that patients with ME/CFS have been seeking for decades.
“The overarching goal of this initiative is to establish a network of Centers that will work collaboratively to define the cause(s) of and discover improved treatments for ME/CFS,” according to the funding opportunity announcement. “A more immediate goal for each Center is to rapidly advance synergistic, interdisciplinary research programs while serving as local resources and national leaders in ME/CFS research.”
The Centers will be funded by various NIH components, with funding limits for each Center set at 1.2 million dollars per year for up to 5 years. This is a major improvement over previous years in which federal funding was limited to specific research proposals. This increase in a federal commitment to ME/CFS research might also lead to pharmaceutical support of treatment trials within a few years, something that cannot happen soon enough for the millions who are disabled and without treatment.
You can read the entire funding opportunity notice at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-NS-17-021.html