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ME/CFS and related chronic complex diseases

Triple Tuesday Research Update

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A Message from Ron Davis

I’m excited to announce that we have added two eminent Stanford engineering researchers to expand our red blood cell deformability project.

Eric Shaqfeh, PhD, is famous for his computational modeling of microfluidic flow. His past work has been modeling air flow over aircraft wings to increase fuel efficiency. He has done extensive work with the Department of Defense and has access to their powerful computer facilities. He has just completed his chairmanship of Stanford’s Chemical Engineering Department and is excited to start a new project.

Juan Santiago, PhD, is a  mechanical engineering professor, world-famous for his ingenious designs of small, low cost devices, many of which are used in medicine. We have worked with him for many years and I’ve been very impressed with his design skills. He often comes up with very simple and robust designs that transform a field. When he heard about our project on red blood cell deformability, which now requires a blood draw and expensive equipment and complex image analysis with considerable computational time, not suitable for a doctor’s office, he was excited to take up the challenge to apply his skills and develop a device that will be simple and cheap to use.

Dr. Shaqfeh and Dr. Santiago plan to work together, along with Mohsen Nemat-Gorgani, PhD, Biochemist at the Stanford Genome Technology Center, and Anand Ramasubramanian, PhD, Biomedical, Chemical, and Materials Engineer, San Jose State University, to develop this technology into a diagnostic tool for ME/CFS.  I was so pleased that all four of these outstanding scientists attended the recent 3-day Working Group meeting at Stanford, along with their students. It was wonderful to watch their enthusiasm grow as they collaborated and made plans for their research during the breaks!

Due to the dedication and hard work of OMF, the different aspects of this project have been funded and are now in progress. I’d like to express my gratitude to these creative scientists and to OMF for enabling this work to proceed.

Below is a description of their research, as well as one additional outstanding project that the Scientific Advisory Board has approved for OMF funding. Jonas Bergquist, PhD, is unique in his ability to use cerebral spinal fluid to investigate molecular components that might be used as a diagnostic biomarker as well as giving us new insight into the neurological aspects of ME/CFS. Dr. Bergquist was also an enthusiastic participant in the 3-day Working Group meeting, and his great sense of humor made it especially fun to have him there! Be sure to watch his Community Symposium talk on YouTube to discover a traditional Swedish food.

We are continuing to work day and night to find a treatment and cure as fast as possible.

Sincerely,

Ronald W. Davis, PhD
Director, OMF Scientific Advisory Board
Director, Stanford Genome Technology Center


OMF Funds Four Additional Research Projects for a Total of $241,670

Red blood cells (RBCs) transport oxygen from the lungs to the cells of your body and then carry carbon dioxide from your cells to your lungs. For RBCs to get to all these cells, they need to be able to flow through small blood vessels with minimal friction. Ultimately, this requires RBCs to be smooth, rounded, and elastic. Alterations in these properties of RBCs can occur during chronic inflammatory diseases like sepsis, and we have found that this deformability is also occurring in ME/CFS. For more information on RBC deformability, click here.

These observations along with new technology available for measuring RBC deformability prompted engineers from Stanford and their collaborators at San Jose State University to examine RBC deformability in ME/CFS. The following three projects will develop and evaluate a device to rapidly determine the ‘deformability’ of RBCs as a potential biomarker for ME/CFS.

  1. Eric Shaqfeh, PhD, Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University – Computer Simulation of the Effect of Membrane Rigidity on the Micro-Flows of Red Blood Cells to Create a Diagnostic for ME/CFS. The Shaqfeh group at Stanford University will produce computer 3D simulations of RBCs through a set of channels that resemble a blood circulation system. Using these simulations, the Shaqfeh group will determine how to characterize the properties of RBCs by the way they flow through these channels.
  2. Anand Ramasubramanian, PhD, Biomedical, Chemical & Materials Engineering, San José State University – Erythrocyte Biomechanics in ME/CFS. The computer simulations described above will be conducted in close collaboration with the Ramasubramanian group at San Jose State University, where they are producing a microfluidics chip to estimate the properties of RBCs. A microfluidic chip is a set of tiny channels etched into a piece of material like glass or plastic and is around the size of a SIM card. Designing the microfluidic chip will require ongoing RBC simulations by the Shaqfeh group to determine the optimal set of channels to distinguish ME/CFS RBCs from normal RBCs.  The microfluidic devices suggested from the simulations will be tested at San Jose State with the ultimate goal being the creation of a sensitive diagnostic device.
  3. Juan G. Santiago, PhD, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University – Computer Simulation of the Effect of Membrane Rigidity on the Micro-Flows of Red Blood Cells to Create a Diagnostic for ME/CFS. A key part of determining RBC properties in these channels will be the development of a state-of-the-art image analysis tool that can automatically identify and track the position and shape of thousands of RBCs under relaxed and stressed conditions. The Santiago group will develop this visualization technology at Stanford University. The visualization technology developed by the Santiago group will be applied to develop a microfluidics device in conjunction with the Ramasubramanian and Shaqfeh groups. The longer-term goal of this collaborative effort between these three groups is to produce a low-cost, disposable device to determine the rapid quantitation of deformability of the cells in a single drop of blood.
  4. OMF has granted Scientific Advisory Board member, Jonas Bergquist, MD, PhD, Uppsala University (Sweden), additional funds to expand his work on targeted proteomics for neuroinflammatory markers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in ME/CFS patients. Continuing with his ongoing study of CSF from ME/CFS patients, Dr. Bergquist has recently acquired a piece of technology that significantly enhances the detection of inflammation markers. This technology has yet to be used on CSF, so this will be the world’s first test case for ME/CFS samples. Using this technology, Bergquist’s team is going to selectively test for a set of over 900 markers of neuroinflammation.

 

Triple Tuesday OMF now through November 27.