Association Awards Research Grant
The CFIDS Association of America is pleased to announce a
commitment of $80,000 to fund a study of neuroactive progesterone metabolites in
women with CFS. Frances Abbott, M.D., of McGill
Canada, will head up the
With more women than men affected by CFS, some physicians
question whether stress or sex hormones play a role in the illness. However, the
only consistent finding is a tendency for low cortisol levels. A recent study of
small sample size showed that five-ring, A-reduced metabolites of progesterone
were elevated in plasma samples from women with CFS. Data from that study led
Dr. Abbott and her group to hypothesize that involvement of progesterone
metabolites in the etiology of CFS could mean the development of a diagnostic
Results from the study Elevated levels of some neuroactive
progresterone metabolites, particularly isopregnanolone, in women with chronic
fatigue syndrome show that one of the 3â, 5á-tetrahydroprogesterone (3â,
5á-THP) was elevated independent of progesterone levels. As reported in the
February 2004 journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, data from the study
conducted by Dr. Abbott, B.E. Murphy, C.M. Allison, C. Watts and A.M. Ghadirian
also showed that 78 percent of the 20 CFS patients and 13 age-matched controls
in the study were correctly classified as either patient or control on the basis
of 3â, 5á-THP levels. Dr. Abbott’s new research will explore the critical
question of whether 3â, 5á-THP is a specific marker for CFS, or whether it also
occurs in disorders such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which
also have overlapping symptom profiles.
Currently restricted to women, Dr. Abbott’s study will compare
both sedentary and active controls (matched for age and socioeconomic variables)
because the effects of activity and body mass index on 3â, 5á-THP is not known.
In addition to medical history, routine blood screening and physical
examination, questionnaires will be used to quantify health and mood. Tender
points, sensitivity to experimental pain and autonomic tone will be measured.
Samples will be assayed for progesterone, its precursor pregnenolone, and five
metabolites. The study will also analyze testosterone, estrogen, peptides
involved in pain processes (substance P and CGRP) and dehydroepiandrosterone,
indices of inflammatory processes (C-reactive protein and interleukin 1â).
Circadian variation in cortisol will be measured in saliva samples collected at
home. The data analysis will focus on the association of physiological measures
with symptoms such as fatigue, muscle tenderness, depression, etc.
The potential for development of markers and treatment of CFS
that could result from this study led the Association to approve its research
funding. The progress of this investigation will be reported in subsequent
issues of the CFIDSLink and other publications.