By Janet Dafoe
10 December 2019
There are a lot of various threads and tweets about this so I asked Ron to clarify where the research is at and what the plans are. As for everything else, this has gone a lot slower than it could have if he'd had more funding. The fact that he's gotten this far i totally due to patients' contributions to Open Medicine Foundation and to Stanford's ME/CFS Collaborative Research Center.
As you know, we have found that there is something in patients' plasma that is largely responsible for the signal that we see in the nanoneedle assay. We have some preliminary results using filtration that indicate that the major plasma component is fairly large, suggesting that it is not a cytokine.
We would like to identify what the component, or components, are that causes this signal, which could give us good insight into what's happening with the patients.
To conduct these experiments, we will need to fractionate the plasma using a variety of techniques, such as size fractionation. To fractionate means to divide the plasma up into multiple components based on various parameters. For example, to fractionate by size means to separate the plasma into 10 to 100 different parts, increasing in size.
We then need to run all these fractions in the nanoneedle at the same time, using the same blood sample. This is important, because if we run them one or two at a time there could be differences that are due to the different runs, rather than differences in the sample itself.
Currently, we are relying on a commercial instrument, costing $30,000, that is only capable of running 2 nanoneedle chip samples per day. Also, the sample needs to be run within 24 hours of the blood collection. Therefore, using the current machine, we would have to get new blood samples every day. We can't have the same patient come back every day and we can't use lots of different patients for different fractions, because people differ and this is just too much variance to yield anything useful.
What is now necessary is to fabricate a new electronic control system that can collect the data from the nanoneedle allowing it to collect data from up to 100 chips simultaneously. That way, all the fractions from the blood sample of one patient can be run simultaneously. Rahim Esfandyarpour, who developed the nanoneedle, has been working on this.
However, since Rahim has taken a professorship at UC Irvine, he has had to set up his whole new operation, get new students, and train everyone. He has been coming up to Stanford and collaborating with me every week. He has submitted a grant to NIH for this project. Meanwhile, he has been funded by OMF to pursue this new machine and to make new chips. He has now delivered a large new batch of chips.
We are now able to use the new chips to test various drugs, and we will use them in the new machine for fractionated plasma as soon as:
1. We have the new machine working
2. We have developed the fractionation method(s)
3. We have the new chips working with the new machine
4. We have solved all the problems that come up in the process
The current machine that runs 2 samples and collects the data from the nanoneedle costs $30,000 to buy. We don't need all the versatility of this commercial instrument. The machine that Rahim is developing will run up to 100 samples and will cost a few hundred dollars.
We are working as fast as we can to get this into operation.
I hope this clarifies some of your questions.