NCNED-building-510x201PHANU (now the Center for Neuroimmunology and Emerging Diseases), was doing well at Bond University, but then Griffith University, spying a hot research group with a future, grabbed them up.  (Dr. Klimas found herself in much the same boat with Nova Southeastern University. It makes one hopeful for ME/CFS research.)

Lead by Dr. Sonya Marshall-Gradisnik, the new center focuses on a key area in chronic fatigue syndrome, the neuro-immune system. They’re officially opening their doors tomorrow.

NCNED’s Big New Toy

“The NCNED heralds a higher level in Griffith’s capacity for state-of-the-art neuro-immunological research in the context of nervous system disorders” Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik

The move is not just an upgrade for NCNED, which gets a top-notch lab and an ME/CFS clinic opening in February, 2014, but for the University as well.

flow cytometer results

Flow cytometry in action. In this case examining algae in water

The NCNED scored a big win for both when they found funding for a  flow cytometer. NCNED is only the second group in all of Australia to have this type of cytometer (an LSR Fortessa X20 Flow Cytometer). Flow cyotometers are able to analyze thousands of particle in the blood or spinal fluid, pick out a cell and then determine what’s in it.

They’re adept at  many different functions including immunophenotyping, gene and chromosome analysis, detecting protein modifications, identifying antigens, and measuring a variety of parameters including cytokines, enzymatic activity, intracellular pH, membrane fluidity, apoptosis (mitochondrial membrane potential), oxidative burst, glutathione and more.

The NCNED’s purchase of the flow cytometer means they’ll be able to dig much deeper into their ME/CFS samples. The new cytometer will quickly be put to use analyzing the precious spinal cord fluid samples gathered from Dr. Peterson at Simmaron Research. (Simmaron and the NCNED’s testing to ensure the spinal fluid samples survived the long trip from Nevada to Australia in good shape is a story in itself. Simmaron was so impressed by the NCNED’s expertise that they flew some patients down to Australia earlier this year to get their blood drawn and tested in their labs. )

The Clinic

“We now have the capacity, not only for advanced research but also the potential to provide a clinical service to people who have been unable to find appropriate care in the past ….These disorders are a major cause of neurological disability in Australia.”Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik.

An ME/CFS Clinic opening in Feb, 2014 that will translate the NCNED’s immune findings into treatment opportunities will provide a much needed new option for treatment in Australia.

Biomarker Study Underway

Last year Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik sounded hopeful when she said

“Ultimately our aim is to develop a clear diagnostic test for CFS … which we believe could happen within the next five years.”Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik

missing piece

The NCNED is on the trail of a unique biomarker – and they began a study to see if they found one.

In an interview I did with her last year, Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik said she was ‘quietly confident’  about finding a biomarker  She also said she felt that the first biomarker for ME/CFS will not be something we’ve heard of before.

Step forward just one year and it appears Dr. Marshall-Gradisnik’s ‘quiet confidence’ was not misplaced; the  NCNED  is holding a study to look for immune biomarkers.  Let’s cross our fingers that they’ve found something, and, if you can, please participate in this study.

Call (07)56789283 or email ncned@griffith.edu.au for more information and to make an appointment.

Several blood  collection sites are available in the Gold Coast and Brisbane area:

  1. Robina Hospital,
  2. NCNED Center (Griffith Univeristy on Parkland Drive)
  3. Logan Hospital
  4. Royal Women Brisbane hospital
  5. Tweed Hospital


“Our research is leading the way internationally to uncover the causes of this illness and the search for effective treatments based on our unique immunological discoveries.”

‘Unique immunological discoveries’, indeed.  A quick look at the NCNED’s recent publications reveals an intense focus on the immune system. From the effects of vaccination on the immune system, to the relationship between heat shock proteins and regulatory T-cells, to microRNA’s effects on NK and T cells, the NCNED is staking out new ground in chronic fatigue syndrome.

Thus far this past year NCNED researchers have presented their findings at the International Congress of Immunology, the International Mental Health Instrument, the Asian Congress of Autoimmunity and the Invest in ME International ME Conference.  The topics they’ve spoken on include NK cells, neutrophils, dendritic cells and monocytes, B-lymphocytes and immunological biomarkers.

The NCNED’s Second International Symposium on ME/CFS

The NCNED’s second International Symposium on ME/CFS marks the opening of the facility.

Dr. Unger of the CDC will help Dr. Marshall-Gradisnuk open the day long symposium. The talks feature some intriguing and new slants on ME/CFS.  The first proposes that cortistatin neuropeptides play a key role in the progress of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Produced by the CORT gene (!) cortostatin and its receptors are viewed as potential drug targets in inflammatory disorders.

meeting table on a beach

The Gold Coast of Australia – What a great place to hold a Symposium! Enjoy the sun, Dr. Peterson :)

Dr. Staines vasoactive intestinal peptide theory hits some key spots in ME/CFS (vasoactive – blood vessels, intestinal – gut), but for the first time it’s ‘therapeutic applications’ are the focus of a talk.

Tryptophan metabolism, another  subject we don’t hear a lot about, but presents intriguing possibilities for both fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, headlines another talk. Differentiating ME/CFS from anxiety and depression using neuroimaging, and several immune focused talks from NCNED members make up the rest of the first research focused session.

Dr. Daniel Peterson has strong connections to NCNED and he leads off the next session with a talk on ‘New horizons for ME/CFS”.  His talk is followed by talks on long term outcomes for young people  with ME/CFS, clinical management and others.


With a big grant they scored earlier this year, their new lab, their clinic opening up soon and their big, new toy, the NCNED appears to be in good shape to make a difference in ME/CFS. Things are indeed looking up down under.

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