Establishing Protocols to Assess Mitochondrial Function in ME/CFS by Dr Karl Morten | 21 August 2019


This new blog follows the publication recently of a key study from researchers in Oxford and Newcastle who failed in their attempt to validate the Acumen test which is being used commercially to determine mitochondrial function and then treatment in ME/CFS.

It is hoped that the comments below and the report from Dr Morten’s team which explains in more detail what the study was all about and what its’ main findings were, will help address some of the questions still being asked.

However, the report is rather technical and while in our earlier blog we did explain why the authors and the ME Association do not endorse the Acumen test, you might also find that the interview with Dr Karl Morten on Science 4 ME Forums scheduled for 6th September is worth watching.

We would also like to encourage the Myhill Group to respond to the authors of this new study in the usual way via Scientific Reports i.e. the Journal in which the study was published, so that formal discussion might continue.

Dr Karl Morten, University of Oxford.

Our research looking into the Acumen test ran from June to December 2016.

The proposal came from a request from Dr Charles Shepherd to investigate the test in a control population.

Literature (Chako et al 2013) had suggested Neutrophils in a fresh blood sample were in a glycolytic state (i.e. not requiring mitochondrial respiration to generate ATP) and this differed from the results of the Myhill group whose data suggested mitochondrial ATP was important in Neutrophils.

We carried out a range of studies which are documented in our report. This report has not been peer reviewed and is our interpretation of our data. 

Unlike peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) Neutrophils were difficult to isolate from a gradient and when run through a flow cytometer appeared to be a mixture of cell types.  

Only 14-11% of ATP generated by cells in the neutrophil fraction appeared to come from mitochondrial respiration. A larger degree of variation in ATP levels was observed in longitudinal study when we sampled blood from 3 healthy controls over an 8 week period.

PBMCs were much more consistent, producing good banding in gradients and less variable ATP measurements. Issues were encountered with the ATP standards which were prone to variation between runs. A difference in the banding patterns of neutrophils in fresh samples compared to 24hr stored blood samples was observed. 

  • Dr Morten will be interviewed by Science 4 ME Forums on 06 September 2019. There are already some questions relating to the above research, so it might be worth watching/listening to the interview when published.
  • A summary explanation of the attempt at validation of the Acumen Test can be read on the ME Association website blog. It includes comment from Dr Charles Shepherd and the researchers who were involved.
  • The study was published in Scientific Reports 07 August 2019 with the recommendation that, “The MES test does not have the reliability and reproducibility required of a diagnostic test and therefore should not currently be offered as a diagnostic test for CFS/ME.”
  • The report from Dr Morten’s team at Oxford University and sent to the ME Association in February 2017 can be accessed here.

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