This study is led by Michael Sikora, in collaboration with Mark M. Davis, PhD, Lars M. Steinmetz, PhD, and Ronald W. Davis, PhD, at Stanford University.
Beginning in 2016, the aim of this study was to establish the role of T cells and the immune system in ME/CFS by examining the genetic material in T cells - immune cells that identify and kill infected cells. The rationale is that aspects of of genetic material in these cells can inform whether they are actively fighting an infection and potentially what the cause of the infection is.
Many studies have shown that the immune system is affected in ME/CFS patients, e.g., low activity of NK cells, altered levels of cytokines (signaling molecules of the immune system), and the likelihood of a microbial infection preceding the illness. None of these studies are yet to implicate T cells or define their activity in ME/CFS patients.
The investigation of the immunological basis of ME/CFS will have several parts that overall will help determine if ME/CFS is an autoimmune disease and what immune factors may be triggering ME/CFS or sustaining it as a chronic disease.
Dr. Mark Davis’ team is investigating the clonal expansion of T cells in ME/CFS, including what they might be targeting – viruses, bacteria, or self (autoimmune).
Dr. Ron Davis’ team has invented a highly accurate, cost-effective method for HLA gene sequencing and a very sensitive method for detecting viral DNA as a sign of viral infections, which he is using in this project.
Dr. Lars Steinmetz’ team has developed effective methods for sequencing RNA from single T cells, which they are using to understand how T cell behavior may be different in ME/CFS.