I'm open minded to the idea that ME is an autoimmune disease, but I wonder if the illness can be as simple as the production of an auto-antibody.
The main reason that I question it is because of post-exertional malaise.
Post-exertional malaise is a very specific reaction to exertion. Simply put, when we exert ourselves (i.e. use energy) all of our symptoms increase, often with a delayed reaction of 12 to 24 hours, and our illness deteriorates.
I wonder how and why the symptoms would increase in reaction to exertion, if it's an autoimmune disease.
If looking at it from the point of view of autoimmunity, what happens when we use energy, that would provoke an autoimmune response? And then why would the reaction be long-lasting once we stopped exercising?
Exploring the issue hypothetically, let's say that a unique molecule is produced (or enters our bloodstream) when we use energy, and that provokes an auto-immune response. Then why doesn't the autoimmune response diminish once we stop exerting ourselves, or why is there a long-lasting reaction? Post-exertional malaise can last for months, or longer, after we over-exert ourselves. Symptoms do not increase and decrease in direct proportion to energy used.
If auto-antibodies are produced in reaction to exertion, how long can they last in the body? Can they last a very long time after they are produced? Could this be an explanation for long-lasting reaction to exertion? Or can dysfunctional B-cells last for a very long time after they are created?
I'm out of my depth here, scientifically, but I can't help feeling that it's more complex than an auto-antibody at play, and that we have a more complex immune dysfunction.
Hypothetically, again, perhaps there is some sort of destructive biological loop at play, and an auto-antibody is targeted at a part of the immune system. So that when an auto-immune response is provoked or triggered, by exertion, the auto-antibody attacks a part of the immune system which makes the immune system dysfunctional. And perhaps this immune dysfunction causes, or allows, the auto-immune response to take place in the first place. So it's a destructive feedback loop.
I'm sure I'm talking absolute nonsense, in terms of actual science, but I'm just trying to get my head around the possibilities.
Another thought is Julia Newton's recent (as yet unpublished) research in which she found that muscle tissue taken from ME patients produces 20 times as much (lactic?) acid as muscle tissue from healthy people. How would this come about in terms of auto-immunity? I imagine that there might be an interplay between auto-antibodies and something within the cellular mechanism that produces energy (i.e. related to the mitochondria.) Are the mitochondria an integral part of the immune system? Could this explain a possible destructive feedback loop? (Dysfunctional mitochondria could potentially explain both the profound fatigue/exhaustion, and the post-exertional malaise in ME patients.)
Here's an interesting article about the relationship between the immune system and mitochondria, which discusses how mitochondria can mediate/trigger a systemic inflammatory immune response to 'trauma'. (The article doesn't mention ME, but perhaps ME could be described as a systemic inflammatory immune response to 'trauma' or 'stress'?):
I wonder if Jonathan Edwards
has any thoughts about any of this at all, if it makes any sense?