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Red Blood Cell Deformability in ME/CFS (RBC Biomechanics)

The goal of the project is to develop, characterize, and validate a microfluidic chip for the estimation of biomechanical properties of red blood cells (RBCs) isolated from ME/CFS patients vis-à-vis healthy controls.

  • Anand Ramasubramanian, PhD
  • Ronald W. Davis, PhD

Designed, fabricated, and benchmarked new devices to subject RBCs to higher stresses, along with changes in oxygen tension and temperature. We expect to see larger differences in the RBCs between healthy control and ME/CFS, than what we observe now.

Current research is based on OMF-funded paper:


Several studies have implicated a role of oxidative stress in ME/CFS. Red blood cells (RBCs) are potent scavengers of oxidative stress and their shape changes appreciably in response to oxidative stress; this has been observed in certain inflammatory conditions including obesity and diabetes.

The shape of RBCs determine how well these cells can move through blood vessels so it seems pertinent to determine if RBCs in ME/CFS patients are affected. This has led to the development of a microfluidic device that mimics blood flow through microcapillaries.

Preliminary studies have shown that RBCs from ME/CFS patients had an altered rate of movement through microcapillaries and that RBCs from ME/CFS patients had reduced deformability.

The significant decrease in deformability of RBCs from ME/CFS patients may have origins in oxidative stress and suggests that altered microvascular perfusion can be a possible cause for ME/CFS symptoms.


red cells in bloodstream

  1. Develop, characterize, and validate a microfluidic chip for the estimation
    of biomechanical properties of erythrocytes isolated from ME/CFS patients vis-à-vis healthy controls.
  2. As we estimate these differences, we will also elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to altered biomechanics in ME/CFS in patients.
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME / CFS) Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS), Fibromyalgia Leading Research. Delivering Hope.Open Medicine Foundation®

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