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The Gander – 18 July 2019

A cellular perspective on chronic fatigue syndrome 

A small study has focused on the electric response of blood cells to stress in patients who have been diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome).

Research into the condition has been controversial, with some physicians referring patients with the condition for talk therapy, which has angered patient representative groups who insist that chronic fatigue syndrome is a genuine medical condition.

The researchers, who are based in the University of California, US, sought to provide clarity on the condition and encourage more focused studies in the future and enable a faster diagnosis, as no recognised biomarker currently exists for chronic fatigue syndrome.

The researchers sought to establish whether blood cells in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome reacted differently to those who had not been diagnosed with the condition.

To do this, they exposed cells from patients’ blood samples to a salt compound in order to induce stress and then processed the samples through a device that can measure energy use, also known as ‘electrical impedance’.

The results did illustrate differences in both cohorts  (with 20 people in each group) following the test and the authors concluded that it was possible to accurately identify those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome purely from their blood samples’ reaction to the stress.

Prof Ron Davis, Professor of Biochemistry and Genetics at the University of California, US, who co-led the study, commented to Reuters: “We don’t know exactly why the cells and plasma are acting this way, or even what they’re doing.

“[But] we clearly see a difference in the way healthy and chronic fatigue syndrome immune cells process stress.”

The findings were published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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