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    The Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards: News Releases – Silver

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    “Biomarker for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Identified”
    By Hanae Armitage 
    Stanford University School of Medicine

    “People suffering from a debilitating and often discounted disease known as chronic fatigue syndrome may soon have something they’ve been seeking for decades: scientific proof of their ailment. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have created a blood test that can flag the disease, which currently lacks a standard, reliable diagnostic test. ‘Too often, this disease is categorized as imaginary,’ said Ron Davis, PhD, professor of biochemistry and of genetics. … The test, which is still in a pilot phase, is based on how a person’s immune cells respond to stress. With blood samples from 40 people — 20 with chronic fatigue syndrome and 20 without — the test yielded precise results, accurately flagging all chronic fatigue syndrome patients and none of the healthy individuals.”

    Scientists led by Ron Davis, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and genetics, developed the first-ever diagnostic blood test for the notoriously mysterious disease myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). The test, devised by Dr. Davis and his team, harnessed something called a nanoelectronic assay, which works to assess the stress response of immune cells. The test showed that blood samples from patients with ME/CFS responded in a drastically different manner when compared with immune cells taken from healthy individuals. It’s also possible that the nanoelectronic assay could be used to test the efficacy of potential ME/CFS drugs, but further research will need to confirm this application. 

    What was the biggest challenge in writing about this topic?

    I needed to balance the excitement of this new diagnostic test with the fact that the study size was relatively small. While it’s an important development, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t overstating the research findings.

    What was the most impactful part of your award-winning entry?

    This work provides the first method to diagnose ME/CFS with scientific evidence, a huge step for ME/CFS patients who often have been ignored or dismissed.

    Hanae Armitage, harmitag@stanford.edu