Monday, October 31, 2016

Manic Monday: Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a Type of Hibernation?

As a long-time nurse, I worked with many patients who had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It often coexisted with other diagnoses such as depression and fibromyalgia. The patients were usually dismissed as being "psyched out", but in working closely with many of them, I can attest that their symptoms were real, and felt the disease was not getting the attention it deserved.

the dark clouds of CFS 

Finally, there's some good research on this debilitating condition. From the University of California, San Diego, researchers have noted that CFS looks a lot like the "dauer", which is hibernation. Is CFS a human form of hibernation? If so, what is triggering it? We know that victims are often under stress, both physical and mental. They have frequently been working long hours and are chronically sleep-deprived. Many patients describe themselves as former workaholics who were stopped in their tracks by crushing fatigue. Most of my patients with CFS were women. They worked long hours outside the home, longer hours inside the home, most of it under stress, and with little appreciation of their efforts. Were their fed-up bodies signalling them to hibernate? Is our workaholic culture creating hibernation cues in some of its desperately tired members?? What do you think? At least now I don't think we'll be "blaming the victims" any more for their condition. And that means a brighter future for victims of CFS.
A brighter future?

 Blood simple?  A new test may diagnose a mysterious illness, and also help to explain it

"These metabolite profiles, they found, differed clearly and systematically between the patients and the controls. Some 20 metabolic pathways were affected, with most patients having about 40 specific abnormalities. The biggest differences were in levels of sphingolipids, which are involved in intercellular communication, though other molecules played a role as well. These differences should give clues as to what is happening at a cellular level during CFS. More immediately, a handful of the abnormalities—eight in men and 13 in women—were enough, collectively, to diagnose with greater than 90% accuracy who had the disease."

"One crucial question that needs an answer if CFS is to be understood better is: what cellular changes are these metabolic abnormalities bringing about? Here, Dr Naviaux has already made an intriguing and slightly disturbing discovery. Similar metabolite profiles to those seen in CFS are characteristic of a state known as “dauer” that occurs in one of biology’s most-studied animals, a soil-dwelling threadworm called C. elegans (pictured). In dauer, which is reminiscent of hibernation in larger creatures, the worm puts its development on hold and enters a state of suspended animation in response to threats such as reduced food, water or oxygen levels. It can survive this way for months, though the lifespan of an active worm is mere weeks."

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