New study to shine a light on ME

12th May 2024

Researchers from the Quadram Institute and University of East Anglia are testing the feasibility of red light therapy for people with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

This pilot study, called Light ME Up, is being supported by the charity Invest in ME Research and as well as pointing to potential new treatments the researchers hope to develop new and improved ways to make clinical research more accessible to people with ME.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which is sometimes referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is characterised by extreme fatigue that’s not relieved by sleep, post exertional malaise, pain and a reduced ability to concentrate. It’s a life-changing chronic and debilitating condition affecting up to 250,000 people in the UK, leaving many house- or even bed-bound. Despite this there are no cures or approved treatments, and the processes in the body that go wrong as this complex disease develops aren’t fully understood.

As chronic fatigue is a common symptom in ME patients, one potential part of the problem could lie in mitochondria, the powerhouses in our bodies’ cells that generate energy. People with ME are reported to have reduced mitochondrial function.

A amn in light short and dark trousers is sat in a black chair wearing a blindfold. His is let red by a small red light bulb on a table facing him

Prof. Simon Carding traling the use of red light

Mitochondria can absorb red light and use this to boost energy production, so there is interest in using red light therapy to treat ME/CFS. It has been used to manage the symptoms of acne, muscle and joint pain, arthritis, blood circulation issues and hair loss; this will be the first study to assess the use of red light therapy on ME.

Ten people with ME will be given a red light to use for two minutes per day, for a period of two weeks. Their symptoms will be monitored for a couple of weeks before and after this period, to see whether the red light therapy provides any benefits.

The Light ME Up study will trial objective assessments of cognitive function and physical activity levels and an online clinical trial management platform.

“We have set this up as a remote study so people can take part from home, as it is important we improve the accessibility of research participation to all people with ME” said study lead Dr Katharine Seton from the Quadram Institute and Invest in ME Research Ian Gibson Fellowship holder.

Dr Seton will work with colleagues from the University of East Anglia, including Dr Andrew Atkin, analysing activity monitor data and Professor Michael Hornberger who is providing expertise on cognitive function testing.

“We are excited to see whether this innovative therapy might help people with ME alleviate some of the symptoms of this debilitating condition” said Professor Simon Carding from the Quadram Institute and University of East Anglia.

“It will also help us improve the ways we can bring people with ME into clinical research in ME, including some of the other studies we’re planning here on the Norwich Research Park, through the ongoing support of Invest in ME Research and everyone who raises funds for them.”

“High quality biomedical research is vital if we are going to fully understand ME, and bring ways to treat it to the thousands of people it affects.”

The Light ME UP study has received ethical approval from the University of East Anglia Faculty of Medicine and Health Research Ethics Subcommittee.

Related Targets

Targeting ME/CFS

ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Related Research Groups

Carding group

Simon Carding

Related Research Areas

A green background with an illustration of a gut full of microbes.

Food, Microbiome and Health