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ME/CFS and cell energy metabolism

‘Frontiers in Immunology’ has recently published a study which highlights that while abnormalities in the process of energy production (energy metabolism) within the body have consistently been linked with ME/CFS – less is known about energy metabolism specifically in cells of the immune system in those with the disease.

Therefore, the research team investigated differences in energy metabolism within cells involved in the immune response – peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), between people with ME/CFS and healthy controls.

Both the methods used, and findings observed were complex, but in summary: 

  • Blood samples were taken from 8 people with ME/CFS (fulfilling the International Consensus Criteria), than those from 7 healthy people (controls).
  • PBMCs were extracted from the blood samples, and placed under conditions which required rapid changes in energy production.

Results suggested that:

  • PMBCs from people with ME/CFS had fewer energy producing components (mitochondria) than those from healthy controls.
  • When required to increase energy production, mitochondria within PBMCs extracted from people with ME/CFS appeared to respond less efficiently than those from healthy controls.

ME Research UK notes that while this small study (only 15 participants) adds to the evidence base of altered energy metabolism in ME/CFS, it is important to remember that the research was carried out using cells that had been extracted from the human body –  studies which examine cells outside of a living organism (in vitro), are limited as they cannot fully replicate conditions inside the body- such as the complexity of organ systems.   

Read more about energy metabolism and ME/CFS here

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