XMRV Buzz: Big Changes at WPI/EBV-XMRV Connection (3/26/11)

Posted by Cort Johnson

Big Changes at WPI – Dr. Lombard is taking over Dr. Mikovits position as Research Director and Dr. Mikovits is taking a new position as “Director of Translational Resources”

Dr. Mikovits – The WPI’s brief announcement stated Dr Mikovits will now be focused on treatment rather than research; her new duties are to engage “in activities which support and promote the development of more effective treatments for all patients with neuro‐immune diseases”

Dr. Mikovits has a long history in treatment research. She directed the Lab of Antiviral Drug Mechanisms (LADM) at the NCI which developed creens for treatments for AIDS and AIDS-associated malignancies (Kaposi’s sarcoma) and served as Chief Scientific Officer and VP of Drug Discovery at Epigenx Biosciences, where she developed cell and array-based methylation assays for drug discovery and diagnostic development. She has co-authored more than 40 papers over her career.

Dr. Lombardi – Dr. Lombardi is about as firmly embedded in ME/CFS research as a young researcher could be. As an undergraduate Dr. Lombardi was a research assistant for Dr. Peterson and did his graduate studies under none other than Dr. Suhadolnik of RNase L fame. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from the Univ of Nevada, Reno in in 2006. He cofounded RedLabs and then left to join the WPI. He has co-authored 3 papers over the past year on XMRV. He was the lead author of the Science paper.

The reason according to an email to Mindy Kitei at CFS Central is the WPI’s lack of success as a Research Institute; in particular their inability to get basic research grants funded or getting their papers papers. Dr. Mikovits said this was due to ‘baseless contamination rumors’ and ‘politics’.

“The point of the change is that the basic research grants and papers are not being funded or published because of the baseless contamination rumors,” Mikovits wrote to CFS Central in an email.

Dr. Mikovits remained confident that XMRV plays a role in ME/CFS.

“I am totally confident that XMRV and a family of human gamma retroviruses is playing a role in ME/CFS…. [and] our reorganization reflects that confidence and allows me to move forward drug and diagnostic development.”

Dr. Mikovits was, at times, unflatteringly protrayed several prominent media articles recently.

EBV/XMRV Connection: A paper from the National Cancer Institute indicates that immune activation appears to enhance XMRV activity. The study found that NF-kb, an immune factor which Dr. Maes believes may play a key role in CFS, and TNF-a, a major pro-inflammatory cytokine, both enhance activity of XMRV’s gag gene.

Interestingly they found that a mutation in one part of NF-kB did not increase XMRV activity – thereby suggesting that organisms or people with this mutation might not be effected as much by it. They also found that one strain (mutant) of XMRV was not nearly as active as another..suggesting, of course, that the type of XMRV infection an organism has could be important how virulent it is.

They also found that EBV infected cells appear to foster XMRV replication – an interesting finding given all the EBV connections in CFS.

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