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In 2019, Professor Ron Davis from America reported that researchers had developed a nanoelectronics test that could detect an impedance in white blood cells taken from people with ME/CFS1.
They felt their findings could represent a diagnostic marker, but since then there hasn’t been any further research in this area. ME Research UK and the ME Association have jointly funded a new 12-month study that will build upon these initial findings.
The research grant has been awarded to Professor Robert Dorey, Dr Fatima Labeed and Professor Michael Hughes from the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Surrey, and Dr Eliana Lacerda and Caroline Kingdon from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UK ME/CFS Biobank.
The UK researchers have already used a more robust approach to identify statistically significant differences between the electrical properties in blood from people with ME/CFS compared to healthy and multiple sclerosis (MS) controls (using samples from the UK ME/CFS Biobank).
Their preliminary work suggests that the 2019 results from America are repeatable and can be explored in more detail. Furthermore, that they have the potential to be used as a routine diagnostic test.
The grant will be used to:
- Apply the approach to a larger cohort (including mild, moderate, severe ME/CFS, and healthy and MS controls) in the hope that it will result in a reliable, repeatable, and low-cost diagnostic tool using the electrical signature from a simple blood test.
- Identify the cellular changes that have occurred in order to create the electrical biomarker and in so doing identify new avenues for potential treatments.
“Both our group and the Davis group have identified electrical variations in ME/CFS cells compared to healthy controls. This is itself highly significant, representing a clear marker of pathology.
“However, we need to probe further to identify exactly what these changes are, and what has caused them. This will shed light on the aetiology of ME/CFS, but more importantly will provide a new tool for those studying the cell from a molecular perspective.
“If we know that cell function – for example, inhibition of a specific kind of ion channel – is responsible for the disease, others can then work to address this, which may offer a therapeutic route for researchers in the field.”Dr Fatima Labeed
 Esfandyar-Pour et al. A nanoelectronics-blood-based diagnostic biomarker for ME/CFS | April 2019