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ME/CFS and related chronic complex diseases

OMF-funded research: diagnostic and drug-screening technology

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On this #OMFScienceWednesday we continue our series on research projects that OMF is funding all over the world, with a look at efforts to develop diagnostic and drug-screening technology for ME/CFS. This project is ongoing at the ME/CFS Collaborative Research Center at Stanford under the direction of Dr. Ron Davis. We are hopeful that the technologies developed by his team will make the diagnosis of ME/CFS faster, easier, and cheaper – and will offer a new way to discover candidate drugs.

Because there is no biological/lab diagnostic for ME/CFS, diagnosing the disease is a terribly lengthy and costly process for patients. This not only harms patient care, but also complicates research. Dr. Davis’ team has developed inexpensive technologies that can monitor cellular and molecular features of blood samples. (Read our previous piece on why a blood-based diagnostic would be particularly valuable for ME/CFS.) So far, two of their technologies – the nanoneedle biosensor and the magnetic levitation platform – have shown promise in distinguishing ME/CFS blood samples from healthy control blood samples, when they are subjected to salt (sodium chloride) stress.

This project will build on these findings as follows:

  1. Validating diagnostic potential of technology in a larger patient population. So far, the team has tested ~10 patients and ~10 healthy controls – next, they will at least triple this number. This validation will also reveal whether it is possible to tell apart different subgroups / severities via blood samples.
  2. Adapting into drug screening technology. Once the technology is validated for diagnostic purposes, the team will test whether adding drugs to the patient samples can make them behave like healthy samples. By scaling up the technology to test many drugs at a time, including some that are already FDA-approved, they aim to identify new candidate treatments for ME/CFS that could be used in future clinical trials.

Read more about Dr. Davis’ work on developing diagnostic technology for ME/CFS in this recent Nature News piece documenting many of the latest efforts in the field.