Publication Date

Summer 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biomedical Engineering


Anand K. Ramasubramanian


biomechanics, chronic fatigue syndrome, microfluidics, red blood cell

Subject Areas

Biomedical engineering


Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is characterized by severe fatigue, impaired cognition, and discomfort. Unfortunately, the etiology and pathogenesis of the disease are not well understood, and there are no diagnostic biomarkers. Early studies have shown that the red blood cells (RBC) in ME/CFS patients have poor filterability. This finding has been implicated in impaired microvascular oxygenation, which may contribute to post exertional malaise and profound fatigue. We hypothesized that RBC biomechanics in patients with ME/CFS are significantly different from those in healthy controls. To test this hypothesis, we use a microfluidic device with microchannels that are narrower than the diameter of a typical RBC. RBCs are forced to deform as they flow through the constrictions, and we observe their shape transitions, changes in velocity, and other metrics that collectively can be used to assess cellular biomechanics. The data suggest that RBC deformability is significantly reduced in patients with ME/CFS. Further studies are warranted to fully evaluate the potential of RBC deformability as a biomarker for ME/CFS.