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Cell Morphology, Cell Deformability and Microclots in ME/CFS


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Research types:
Basic research
Research areas:
Hemic and lymphatic system disorders, Infections
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Project description

The project entitled "cell morphology, cell deformability and microclots in ME/CFS" is the doctoral project of Annick Fehrer, biochemist and member of the working group of Prof. Carmen Scheibenbogen. The project will investigate potential changes to the shape (morphology) and deformability of blood cells as well as the occurrence of so-called microclots in ME/CFS patients. The project will be implemented in close cooperation with Prof. Jochen Guck and Dr. Martin Kräter, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Light in Erlangen.

The project is also investigating whether cell morphology, cell deformability and microclots can be used for diagnosis and as prognostic markers in clinical trials for the treatment of ME/CFS. The work programme of the project is divided into three topics.

First topic: Using deformability cytometry technology, blood samples from a total of 500 patients will be examined. The investigation will cover samples from patients with ME/CFS after COVID-19 as well as other infectious triggers. Samples from age- and gender-matched control subjects, who were ill with COVID-19 but did not develop persistent symptoms, will be used for comparison. In addition, samples from patients who are already taking part in ongoing treatment studies by the National Clinical Study Group (NKSG) will be analysed. For this purpose, samples from patients will be examined before and after completion of treatment. By doing so, the researchers hope to gain insights into the possible influence of changes in blood cells and the occurrence of microclots on the effect of different treatment approaches. The results are then analysed in conjunction with other clinical measurements and laboratory values.

Second topic: Another aim of the project is to determine whether ME/CFS can be distinguished from other diseases (multiple sclerosis or tumor diseases) by detecting changes in blood cells and microclots. Additionally, samples from patients with a previous COVID-19 illness will be examined to see whether SARS-CoV-2-specific spike protein can be detected in microclots. The obtained biomarkers will then be analysed further for their suitability for the specific diagnosis of ME/CFS and post-COVID syndrome.

Third topic: In order to better understand the causes of cell changes and the occurrence of microclots, blood samples will undergo in-depth analysis in order to investigate changes to the inner walls of blood vessels (endothelium) and the coagulation system, as well as to uncover the occurrence of autoantibody-induced blood coagulation and the persistent presence of bacteria or viruses (e.g. SARS-CoV-2 or Epstein-Barr virus proteins). Laboratory tests will also be used to investigate how the administration of blood plasma from samples from different patient cohorts affects cultures of healthy cells (in vitro).

(Description adapted from project website: see link above)

Patient cohort

Post-COVID Syndrome (PCS) according to WHO as well as post-infectious ME/CFS according to Canadian Consensus Criteria (CCC), including post-COVID ME/CFS, compared with healthy controls and other diseases (muliple sclerosis and tumor diseases).

Patients enrolled: 500

Age group: ≥ 18 years (Adults)

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Research areas

Hemic and lymphatic system disorders
Coagulation abnormalities
Blood coagulation describes the process of interaction of blood coagulation factors that results in an insoluble fibrin clot. Blood coagulation disorders describe hemorrhagic and thrombotic disorders that occur as a consequence of abnormalities in blood coagulation due to a variety of factors such as coagulation protein disorders, blood platelet disorders, blood protein disorders or nutritio...
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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the type species of lymphocryptovirus, belonging to the subfamily of gammaherpesvirinae, infecting B-cells in humans. It is thought to be the causative agent of inectious mononucleosis (IM) and is strongly associated with oral hairy leukoplakia, burkitt lymphoma and other malignancies. IM is a common, acute infection usually caused by EBV. There is an increase in ...
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