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.