Image description: The background shows blood test tubes ready for centrifuge extraction. Main inset image: Karl Horton. Smaller inset image Professor Wei Huang. ME Association image bottom right.

Research: Developing a Blood Cell-Based Diagnostic Test for ME/CFS Using Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells 

The following research was funded by the ME Association Ramsay Research Fund 

“With PBMC being an easily accessible target, we believe that Raman spectroscopy combined with advanced artificial intelligence could offer an affordable and non-invasive screening tool for ME/CFS when the condition is first identified.” 

Huang, Morten, et al. Developing a Blood Cell-Based Diagnostic Test for ME/CFS Using Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells.

ME Association Comment: 

“We have been funding Dr Karl Morten and the team in Oxford to look at peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in people with ME/CFS to see if they have any characteristic chemical and molecular profiles that could be used as diagnostic markers. 

“The blood sample analysis involved Raman spectroscopy. This is a non-destructive chemical analysis technique that provides detailed information about chemical structure and molecular interactions. It is based upon the interaction of light with the chemical bonds within a material. 

“The blood samples used in this research which include those from people with severe ME/CFS come from the UK ME/CFS Biobank. This vital research infrastructure, based at the Royal Free Hospital in London and managed by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine is also funded by the ME Association Ramsay Research Fund.  

“Several members of the Biobank team worked with the researchers in Oxford to produce this study which was published last week. The results are clearly encouraging, but more research needs to be conducted before concluding that these findings can be used as a diagnostic test for ME/CFS. We have approached the study authors for a lay explanation of this rather complex research and will share it with you in due course.” 

Dr Charles Shepherd,
Trustee and
Hon. Medical Adviser
to the ME Association.
Member of the 2018-2021 NICE Guideline Committee.
Member of the 2002 Independent Working Group on ME/CFS.

Dr Charles Shepherd


Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is characterized by debilitating fatigue that profoundly impacts patients' lives. Diagnosis of ME/CFS remains challenging, with most patients relying on self-report, questionnaires, and subjective measures to receive a diagnosis, and many never receiving a clear diagnosis at all.  

In this study, a single-cell Raman platform and artificial intelligence are utilized to analyze blood cells from 98 human subjects, including 61 ME/CFS patients of varying disease severity and 37 healthy and disease controls.  

These results demonstrate that Raman profiles of blood cells can distinguish between healthy individuals, disease controls, and ME/CFS patients with high accuracy (91%), and can further differentiate between mild, moderate, and severe ME/CFS patients (84%).  

Additionally, specific Raman peaks that correlate with ME/CFS phenotypes and have the potential to provide insights into biological changes and support the development of new therapeutics are identified.  

This study presents a promising approach for aiding in the diagnosis and management of ME/CFS and can be extended to other unexplained chronic diseases such as long COVID and post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, which share many of the same symptoms as ME/CFS. 

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