Red blood cell deformability is diminished in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, by Amit K Saha, Brendan R Schmidt, Julie Wilhelmy, Vy Nguyen, Justin Do, Vineeth C Suja, Mohsen Nemat-Gorgani, Ronald W Davis and Anand K Ramasubramanian in Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation, Pre-press, pp. 1-4, 28 Dec 2018, [Epub ahead of print]

Research abstract:

BACKGROUND: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a poorly understood disease. Amongst others symptoms, the disease is associated with profound fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep abnormalities, and other symptoms that are made worse by physical or mental exertion. While the etiology of the disease is still debated, evidence suggests oxidative damage to immune and hematological systems as one of the pathophysiological mechanisms of the disease. Since red blood cells (RBCs) are well-known scavengers of oxidative stress, and are critical in microvascular perfusion and tissue oxygenation, we hypothesized that RBC deformability is adversely affected in ME/CFS.

METHODS: We used a custom microfluidic platform and high-speed microscopy to assess the difference in deformability of RBCs obtained from ME/CFS patients and age-matched healthy controls.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: We observed from various measures of deformability that the RBCs isolated from ME/CFS patients were significantly stiffer than those from healthy controls. Our observations suggest that RBC transport through microcapillaries may explain, at least in part, the ME/CFS phenotype, and promises to be a novel first-pass diagnostic test.

One of the researchers Prof Ronald W. Davis comments on an earlier paper on this topic:

This paper documents that red blood cells are less deformable in ME/CFS patients compared to healthy controls. It potentially could be a biomarker, and we are proceeding to design new devices that will make a clear distinction between patients and healthy controls. These devices will be hand-held and easy to use by doctors in their offices, or in clinical testing labs.

Past work has looked primarily at the shape of red blood cells, which is difficult to quantitate. Our approach will give a clear quantitative number. It measures the ability of red blood cells to deform while squeezing into a capillary, something that blood cells must do for healthy flow. We measure hundreds of cells from each patient, so, because of this, even though the number of patients is low, we get a very statistically significant distinction between patient and healthy cells’ deformability. We are putting our energy into developing the new devices as soon as possible.

This critical study has been fully funded by Open Medicine Foundation (OMF) through the support of our generous donors.

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