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Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford researcher develops tools to understand chronic fatigue syndrome

Many scientists care deeply about their work. Yet for researcher Ron Davis, PhD, the drive to decode the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome is all-encompassing: Davis’ 33-year old son, Whitney Dafoe, has been bedridden with the disease for nearly four years.

Since his son fell ill, Davis has worked to uncover the molecular mechanisms and biochemical processes that underlie chronic fatigue syndrome, or myalgic encephalomyelitis. In 2013, Davis launched the Stanford Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Center with the aim of definitively diagnosing, treating and curing CFS.

Now, Davis and his team are making strides toward creating a diagnostic test for CFS. They've crafted a nanofabricated cube, about the size of a sugar lump, that uses 2,500 electrodes to sense electrical resistance in human cells. A recent Nature article highlighted the work:

When Davis exposed immune cells from six people with chronic fatigue syndrome to a stressor — a splash of common salt — the cube revealed that they couldn’t recover as well as cells from healthy people could. Now his team is fabricating 100 more devices to repeat the experiment, and testing a cheaper alternative — a paper-thin nanoparticle circuit that costs less than a penny to make on an inkjet printer.

The goal is to figure out exactly what is going wrong that current tests can't identify.

“My son can’t read. He can’t listen to music. He can’t talk. He can’t write,” Davis said in the article. “But when the doctor does a battery of tests on him, they all come out normal.”

The preliminary findings of the nanofabricated cube study, and the next round of tests using a cheaper version in the form of a thin nanoparticle circuit (shown above), could help pave the way toward a test for CFS.

“This is not an academic exercise,” Davis said. “My son is in bad, bad shape.”

Previously: Stanford scientist's mission to help solve the mystery of CFS brings hope to patientsSome headway on chronic fatigue syndrome: Brain abnormalities pinpointed, Unbroken: A chronic fatigue syndrome patient’s long road to recovery and Deciphering the puzzle of chronic fatigue syndrome

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