Health rising blog post, by Cort Johnson, 8 March 2017: Ron Davis’s Strategic Approach To Understand Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
The Open Medicine Foundation released two videos of Ron Davis talking about their work over the past couple of weeks. I got a chance to talk to Davis twice since then and to flesh out a bit more what he’s doing right now.
As most people probably know, the Davis group’s working hypothesis right now is that problems with glycolysis – the process producing many of the raw materials the mitochondria use for energy – is impaired in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Their data is leading them to suspect an enzyme called pyruvate kinase is this issue. The Fluge/Mella group has come to a similar conclusion, but they’re more focused on a different enzyme called pyruvate dehydrogenase.
Both are coming to the conclusions in an indirect sort of way. Fluge and Mella’s amino acid metabolism results suggested problems with glycolysis were present. Davis’ experiments and metabolomics results suggest the same. Davis noted, though, that neither is directly measuring the performance of the enzymes that break down pyruvate.
Davis’s forte is creating new technologies. Named one of the great inventors of the century by the Atlantic, he created many of the tools that made the Human Genome Project possible. George Church, a Harvard professor, called him a “frequent provider of disruptive core technologies”.
It’s no surprise, then, that Davis has been creating new tools to help him better understand the energy depletion process he believes lies at the core of ME/CFS. Davis is guided by two ancillary goals as he does this: to make the tools as cheaply as possible to avoid the problems with funding that come with ME/CFS, and to produce “fast assays” he can use to test as many potential treatments as quickly as possible…
A Strategic Approach
Davis’ strategic approach (so far as I understand it) to understanding and finding ways to impact the energy problem in ME/CFS patients’ cells has been the following:
(1) First he found a way to assess our cells ability to generate energy by putting them under salt stress (the sodium chloride test)
(2) He then created a tool or tools (electrical impedance, magnetic levitation) which he can use to measure their energy status or health (electrical impedance, magnetic floatation).
(3) With these two tools he can put cells under stress, add possible treatments to them and see if they respond.
(3) After tests suggested that something in ME/CFS patients’ blood was inhibiting their cellular energy production, Davis began filtering their blood to see if he could remove the substance. He found that he could and that a large molecule or protein was likely responsible for blocking the cells’ energy.
(4) Using what he’s learned about the energy production problems Davis began to add substances to the serum to see what would allow the ME/CFS cells to tolerate the salt stress. He’s found two substances so far. He’s also begun to test those substances in a wide variety of patients and people with other fatiguing illnesses to determine if the same issues are present in them.
(5) Davis also used the scientific literature to come up with a list of drugs that might help. He’s testing about a hundred of them in the serum now.
(6) A next step is to be able to create the ability to quickly test many numbers of cells and substances at once.
(7) Drugs or substances that pass the test will give him clues about what’s going on and will provide the foundation for further tests. A variety of problems may be found.
Read the full article
Open Medicine video lecture, 20 Feb 2017: An update on ME/CFS research with Dr Ronald W Davis
Open Medicine video lecture, 7 March 2017: Q&A on ME/CFS Research with Dr. Ron Davis
Open Medicine Foundation says:
Dr. Davis’ team has made exciting breakthroughs in understanding the molecular basis of this devastating disease. The team is now poised to unravel the complexity of CFS and start identifying potential treatments. Significant funding is needed for this to happen and your donations at every amount are critical in our mission to find treatments and a cure as fast as possible. Click to donate online