Marjon News

Marjon Professor searches for cure to mystery disease

Released: 22.02.18

Plymouth Marjon University Associate Professor Giorgos Sakkas joins forces with other experts from 19 European countries to tackle one of the most misunderstood and debilitating conditions of our time; Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

ME/CFS can affect patients of any age, especially women, leaving them bedridden for many weeks or months, while experiencing a debilitating form of mental and physical fatigue. The disease is estimated to affect 15-30 million people worldwide, and yet research remains fragmented and there are no clear treatment solutions.

Because the disease is very difficult to diagnose, many patients have also had to contend with a difficult stigma, including doctors telling them they have nothing physically wrong with them. There is however a growing movement to change this, spearheaded by the five-time award winning documentary “Unrest”. This tells the story of Harvard researcher Jennifer Brea who was about to marry when she was struck down with a fever that left her bedridden. She turned the camera on herself and showed her fight for her illness to be recognised and to find a cure.

It’s a story that is sadly familiar to many ME/CFS sufferers, but many scientists like Giorgos are determined to change this. He said: “ME/CFS is a real disease, currently with no cure. Patients are left unable to move, barely able to wake up, with their quality of life completely diminished. I believe we can find a way to help these patients and recover their quality of life.”

Giorgos is part of this research network due to his international reputation in disease-induced muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue underpins conditions spanning from overtraining syndrome in athletes, to fatigue caused by kidney diseases, to falls in the elderly. He said: “My group aims to develop personalised exercise protocols to support everyday physical activity and speed up recovery in ME/CFS. Networks such as this develop our understanding of what actually causes ME/CFS in the first place and improve our ability to diagnose it clearly, thus reducing the burden of stress on the patient and their family.”

The project is funded by the COST EU framework, which supports research co-operation across multiple countries. This project will bring together experts from 19 countries and is scheduled to last for five years.

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