MEA Summary Review: Assessing diagnostic value of microRNAs from PMBC’s and EV’s in ME/CFS | 11 February 2020


Charlotte Stephens, Research Correspondent, ME Association.

Dr Elisa Oltra’s research team from the University of Valencia, Spain, has just published their study, funded by the MEA Ramsay Research Fund, which used samples from the UK ME Biobank.

Dr Elisa Oltra.

They were analysing the levels of microRNA’s in PBMC’s and EV’s in the blood of people with severe ME/CFS, compared to healthy controls, to see if they could identify a diagnostic biomarker.

They found decreased levels of Creatine Phosphokinase and differences in the number and size of Extracellular Vesicles in the ME/CFS patients compared to controls.

27 miRNA’s were found to be significantly different. Further studies are needed in order to validate the possibility of these findings being used as diagnostic biomarkers for ME/CFS.

In this summary review, we hope to explain the terms used and shed additional light on these findings.

Key Points

  • Blood samples of 15 severely affected ME/CFS patients and 15 healthy controls were obtained from the UK ME Biobank and analysed for differences in miRNA expression in PBMC’s and EV’s.
  • Reduced levels of Creatine Phosphokinase were found in the ME/CFS samples, which is in agreement with a 2019 study from the ME Biobank team.
  • Higher quantities but smaller sizes of Extracellular vesicles (EV’s) were found in ME/CFS patients compared to controls, which also agrees with findings from other studies.
  • 17 miRNA’s in PBMC’s and 10 miRNA’s in EV’s were significantly different in ME/CFS patient samples compared to controls.
  • 15 out of the 27 miRNA’s found to be significantly different in ME/CFS show promise of being possible diagnostic biomarkers.
  • Further, larger studies are needed in order to validate the possibility of these miRNA’s being used as diagnostic biomarkers for ME/CFS.

What does this mean/ what’s next?

This study’s findings of differences in miRNA expression between severe ME/CFS patients and healthy controls could help towards developing a diagnostic biomarker in the future, following further larger studies compared against different diseases, such as MS.

It could also help to further our understanding of the biological pathways involved in ME/CFS disease pathology.

The researchers concluded:

“This opens the exciting possibility for a directional low-cost screening method, including only a few miRNAs together with routine blood analytical parameters and some EV features, to evaluate larger ME/CFS cohorts towards population validation of the potential biomarkers of ME/CFS detected here.
 
“Inclusion of diseased controls, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or other diseases presenting overlapping symptoms will be of relevance in pursuance of ME/CFS specific biomarkers.”

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