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Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases
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Last updated May 30, 2015

Research on Red Blood Cell Shape & CFS

CFS Connection, 1996

Dr. Leslie Simpson, a CFS researcher in New Zealand, has been traveling throughout Canada and the Northeastern US giving lectures about his theories on abnormalities of red blood cells in CFS patients. Thanks to PWC Diane Rose who attended a meeting in Boston for the following report on what Dr. Simpson had to say.

Healthy people typically have six shapes of red blood cells. Healthy people usually have a higher percentage of the disc shaped blood cells, which flow easier than the other shapes. In his studies of blood from PWCs, they tend to have a higher percentage of cup-shaped and other shaped blood cells that are of a shape that is harder to get through small capillaries.

Dr. Simpson's thinking is that ME/CFS is caused by having a higher percentage of the other shaped blood cells and having smaller capillaries. (He used an example of some men that had a higher percentage of cup-shaped and other shaped blood cells but were perfectly healthy - but they had large capillaries) - Most PWCs are in the lower quarter of capillary size. This might also explain the higher percentage of women that seem to get the illness.

Muscles have varying sizes of capillaries, and that would explain why different people have different muscle problems. The hypothalamus has an amazingly intricate web of tiny capillaries, and that would explain all the different problems related to ME/CFS since the hypothalamus corresponds to so many different [systems in the body].

When there were higher percentages of the disc-shaped blood cells, the ME patient felt better; when their percentages of cup- and other-shaped cells was higher, they were feeling worse.

Dr. Simpson's studies have shown that percentages of different blood cell shapes can vary day to day, minute to minute. It can be affected by many things, including stress and exercise. He does some muscle experiments where patients pull a trigger and shows that small muscle activity can affect blood cell shape.

In his experience, there are only two or three things that can influence blood cell shape:

         B12 injections - hydroxocabalamin, not cynidocabalamin. About 50% of the people given B12 produced more disc-shaped cells and felt correspondingly better.

         Gingko biloba extract - tablets, not leaf (capsules). I don't remember what he specifically said about this one - he didn't mention specific numbers as he did with the B12 and EPO.

         Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) - 8-12 500 mg capsules per day with meals. This helped about 70% of his patients taking it to have more disc-shaped cells which translated into their having better days.

Note: He made a point in saying that not all EPO is as effective as the Efamol brand, possibly due to lack of careful quality control measures resulting in 500 mg capsules actually containing less than 500 mg. He also stated that borage oil was not as effective as evening primrose oil.

He seemed very realistic about how no one thing helps everyone. I think he also made it pretty clear that B12 shots weren't cures, by a long shot, but rather they helped alleviate symptoms for some people. What was very clear from his studies is that he can tell from looking at people's blood samples how badly they are feeling. (And doctors in New Zealand use it to help in diagnosing ME/CFS). When he takes blood samples he has you fill in a questionnaire about how you were feeling at the time the blood was drawn, but you don't send him the questionnaire until after he sends you back the analysis of your blood. His studies to date show the percentage of how non-disc shaped blood cells corresponds to how the patient feels.

Dr. Simpson wrote a book which was published in 2008: Blood Viscosity Factors


For those trying to reach Dr. Simpson in hopes of getting their blood tested, I was informed on May 30, 2015 that he has, sadly, died. I do not know at this time who, if anyone, is continuing this research or willing and interested in continuing to provide testing for this anomaly. Melissa Kaplan, 05/30/2015




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