New research may have found a way to make the difficult task of diagnosing ME/CFS much easier through the identification of a new reliable biomarker.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a chronic condition causing extreme fatigue and debilitation, sleep problems, issues with mentation, and other symptoms. The cause is unknown, but immune system alterations, stress, or infectious processes may be associated with the onset of the condition. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported in 2015 that over 800,000 (and perhaps up to 2.5 million) Americans have ME/CFS, with most cases going undiagnosed. The diagnostic challenge is well known, and there has not been a specific test that can confirm ME/CFS. Usually, a number of other conditions must be ruled out before making a diagnosis of ME/CFS.
Results from studies have suggested that there may be impaired utilization of the energy currency of cells, ATP. Therefore, collaborating researchers at Stanford and the University of California, Irvine investigated if the measure of ATP consumption could have diagnostic value for ME/CFS. The approach involved the use of nanotechnology, namely, a nanoelectronic assay that could measure cellular electrical responses. They used peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) obtained from blood samples of patients with ME/CFS and healthy controls. The goal was to measure the impedance of an electrical circuit passed through PBMCs.
The method used involved inducing cell stress by placing PBMCs in a hyperosmotic (high salt) environment because cells use ATP to address cellular stress. PBMCs from healthy controls had a measurable electrical change (changes in current) when exposed to the concentrated salt solution, but returned soon to a normal state. However, the PBMCs from those with ME/CFS had considerably higher impedance with exposure to the concentrated salt solution.
This data shows a measurable difference in cellular responses in people with ME/CFS, possibly representing the identification of a reliable biomarker to diagnose the condition. The researchers will conduct additional studies to validate the assay, including the ability to determine disease severity with the approach. The assay can potentially be used to discover the best drugs to treat the condition and for patient follow up to establish therapeutic effectiveness.
The research being performed in this study used PBMCs, just like the samples available through HemaCare.
Reference: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Blood Test Sensitive to Immune Stress. (2019). GEN - Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News. Retrieved 8 August 2019, from https://www.genengnews.com/news/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-blood-test-sensitive-to-immune-stress/