Characterising the electrical properties of white blood cells to diagnose ME/CFS

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Prof. Robert Dorey


University of Surrey

Start date

January 2024


ME Research UK and the ME Association


In 2019, Prof. Ron Davis from America reported that researchers had developed a nanoelectronics test that found a difference in impedance (i.e. the electrical characteristics) of white blood cells taken from people with ME/CFS compared with those from control subjects.

They felt their findings could represent a diagnostic marker, but since then there hasn’t been any further research in this area. Prof. Robert Dorey, Dr Fatima Labeed and colleagues at the University of Surrey plan to continue this avenue of research in a new study jointly funded by ME Research UK and the ME Association.

Prof. Robert Dorey and Dr Fatima Labeed

The team has already used a more robust approach to identify statistically significant differences between the electrical properties of blood from people with ME/CFS compared with 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 researchers will apply their improved approach to measure white blood cell impedance in a larger cohort of patients, including those with mild, moderate and severe ME/CFS, as well as healthy and MS controls.

Their hope is that the results will lead towards the development of a reliable, repeatable and low-cost diagnostic tool using the electrical signature from a simple blood test.

They also aim to identify the cellular changes that have occurred in order to create the electrical biomarker, and in so doing identify new avenues for potential treatments.

Potential benefits

The findings of this study may lead to the development of a novel diagnostic tool for ME/CFS using a simple blood test, and also an improved understanding of some of the cellular changes occurring in people with the disease.

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