Ramsay Research Team 3 – Metabolic Assessment of Natural Killer Cells in ME/CFS Using the Bioenergetics Health Index

team-3-edit4This study, from Drs. Isabel Barao-Silvestre (University of Nevada Reno), Ruben Dagda (University of Nevada Reno), and Victor Darley-Usmar (University of Alabama at Birmingham), is entitled “The Bioenergetic Health Index of NK Cells as a Diagnostic Tool for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.”

Natural killer (NK) lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are a critical first defense against viruses and cancers, and NK cell dysfunction is a pathological hallmark in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Mitochondrial metabolism is critical for immune cell function. Although many triggers of NK cell activation and subsequent NK cell effector responses have been well characterized, the metabolic requirements to drive NK cell functional responses are not well known.

Mitochondrial dysfunction has been reported in ME/CFS. However, the extent to which the metabolic profiles of lymphocytes are associated with immune dysfunction remains to be explained. Variations in the bioenergetic function of patients’ immune cells can reflect both metabolic stress and the role of these cells in patients’ immunity and disease pathogenesis. The bioenergetic health index (BHI) of immune cells is a measure of mitochondrial metabolism with prognostic and diagnostic value.

This study aims to test whether the three energy-generating mitochondrial pathways—oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), glycolysis, and fatty acid oxidation (FAO)—are deregulated in ME/CFS NK cells and whether they affect NK cell function. The study analyzes blood using spectroscopy to measure the flux of metabolites.

This will be the first comprehensive metabolic assessment of NK cells in ME/CFS and may lead to the development of a BHI as a new diagnostic tool for ME/CFS. The results derived from this pilot study can pave the way for more efficient diagnosis of ME/CFS and clinical trials that test new NK cell­ and mitochondrial-based therapies.

Drs. Isabel Barao-Silvestre and Ruben Dagda said, “The SMCI Ramsay Award Program will permit us to understand mitochondrial pathology in ME/CFS and develop a new diagnostic tool to monitor disease progression. Dr. Zaher Nahle was extremely informative and supportive of the application process. We are much honored to receive this award from Solve ME/CFS Initiative.”

Read this study’s abstract here: https://solvecfs.org/the-bioenergetic-health-index-of-nk-cells-as-a-diagnostic-tool-for-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/