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By Alan Cocchetto, NCF Medical Director

From Spring 2011 Forum

On February 23, the CBS Evening News, with anchor Katie Couric, had a story on new CFS research.

Dr. Steven Schutzer, lead author and researcher from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, published his medical study comparing the spinal fluid from patients with CFS to those with neurologic post-treatment Lyme (nPTL) disease as well as healthy controls. The study, titled "Distinct Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteomes Differentiate Post-Treatment Lyme Disease from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" was published in the journal PloS ONE the same day [1]. The study participants included 43 CFS patients, 25 nPTL patients and 11 healthy controls.

According to Schutzer, "We found that both groups, and individuals within the groups, could be distinguished from each other and normals based on their specific cerebrospinal fluid proteins." The study also yielded a particularly interesting and scientifically significant result. Schutzer's team identified proteins unique to each disease state. In so doing, the team identified a signaling pathway that was found to be highly upregulated in the CFS patient group. This pathway, known as the CDK5 pathway, was found to be statistically important (p = 0.00009 ) in the CFS group.

According to the article, the CDK5 pathway is implicated in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

A quick check of the National Library of Medicine (Pubmed) yielded the additional information. CDK5 is a crucial regulator of neuronal migration in the developing central nervous system. Research indicates its dysregulation is involved in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases [2]. CDK5 plays a key role in learning and memory as well as neurological pathology[3]. It also has been found to play a key role in pain signaling and opioid tolerance [4].


  1. Distinct cerebrospinal fluid proteomes differentiate post-treatment Lyme disease from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Schutzer SE, Angel TE, Liu T, Schepmoes AA, Clauss TR, et al. ; PLoS ONE 6(2): e17287, 2011
  2. A decade of CDK5; Dhavan R, Tsai LH; Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2001 Oct;2(10):749-59
  3. The role of Cdk5 in cognition and neuropsychiatric and neurological pathology; Barnett DG, Bibb JA; Brain Res Bull. 2010 Dec 7
  4. Cdk5: a new player in pain signaling; Pareek TK, Kulkarni AB; Cell Cycle. 2006 Mar;5(6):585-8.

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