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Meet our Grant Recipients

Thesis Projects - Harnoor Singh

by Alia Knight '12

Haroon Singg

For an individual with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), or myalgic encephalomyelitis, every day is a struggle against exhaustion and pain. Little seems to help; no medication exists to fight off the fatigue; and physical exercise can leave one debilitated for days. The cause is unclear.

Harnoor Singh '07 is a master's candidate in exercise physiology with a passion for clinical research. He sought a Pacific Fund grant to research CFS.

CFS is not very common and often goes undiagnosed. Fatigue is a symptom of many other illnesses, and symptoms vary from patient to patient. Symptoms include muscle and joint pain, cognitive difficulties and chronic exhaustion in an otherwise healthy person.

One of the strategies used in diagnosis is a cardiopulmonary exercise test, or stress test. This test is commonly used to assess cardiac fitness, and it has proven valuable in diagnosing CFS. Results can be complicated to evaluate, however, as there are different variables that affect the outcome. When Singh learned about CFS and the difficulty in pinpointing a diagnosis, he resolved to search for a more effective method for diagnosis.

Singh proposed a scoring system in conjunction with the stress test to describe physiological function and working capacity. Singh used his grant to recruit participants for a variety of tests, including the exercise stress tests. Test results were compared over two days of testing, providing more reliable data. Professors Mark VanNess, Chris Snell, Peg Ciccolella and Staci Stevens provided invaluable assistance.

Singh uses bicycle ergometer for testingSingh used a bicycle ergometer for the test to provide a description of health and disability. "Previously, only those with training in cardiology or exercise physiology would be able to completely understand the results," said Singh. Singh's system can be interpreted by anyone in the healthcare profession. He hopes his method, called the Singh Score, will simplify interpretation of stress test results to make it easier to diagnose CFS.

The grant also made it possible for Singh to present his findings at the Annual Meeting for the International Association for Chronic Fatigue/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, where he was named Student Researcher of the Year. Scientists and other researchers were impressed by the ingenuity of the Singh Score and its applied clinical relevance. He also presented at the annual meeting for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conference in Seattle and is preparing a thesis detailing his research to present at the Southwest ACSM chapter meeting.

Singh says his project has helped him realize that everyone has the ability to affect the lives of others.

Watch Harnoor Singh and other members of the Pacific Fatigue Lab in Washington D.C. support the importance of the breakthrough XMRV retroviral research and its implications for CFS at the October 29 -30 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee meeting.

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