..although there has been mounting evidence that brain inflammation plays some role in fibromyalgia [FM], this research [ published online September 14 in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity] is the first to show direct evidence of brain glial activation in the poorly understood and difficult-to-treat chronic condition.
In a news release, study coauthor Marco Loggia, PhD, from the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, explains, “The activation of glial cells we observed in our studies releases inflammatory mediators that are thought to sensitize pain pathways and contribute to symptoms such as fatigue.”
The evidence may open the door to new treatments…
“We don’t have good [options] for FM, so identifying a potential treatment target could lead to the development of innovative, more effective therapies. And finding objective neurochemical changes in the brains of patients with FM should help reduce the persistent stigma that many patients face, often being told their symptoms are imaginary and there’s nothing really wrong with them.”
The research team led by Anton Forsberg, PhD, of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, included Daniel S. Albrecht, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues.
This was a small study, with 31 in the patient group (29 of them women), average age 50.7 ± 11 years old, meeting the American College of Rheumatology definition for FM diagnosis, and without any other pain condition; and 27 healthy controls (25 women), average age 49.4 ± 11 years old. The brain scan was by hybrid magnetic resonance/positron-emission tomography (MR/PET), and the results showed
…higher levels of the glial marker TSPO, a translocator protein, in several regions of the brain in patients with fibromyalgia relative to healthy controls. They also found that the degree of glial activation was related to the degree of fatigue the patients reported.
“Overall, our data support glial modulation as a potential therapeutic strategy,” the authors write.
According to the CDC, about 4 million US adults alone have fibromyalgia (i.e., not counting youngsters).
The study was supported by the International Association for the Study of Pain, Martinos Center Pilot Grant for Postdoctoral Fellows, and Harvard Catalyst Advance Imaging Pilot. The Swedish part of the study received funding from Stockholm County Council, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Rheumatism Association, and Fibromyalgiförbundet. The study was also funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme and a donation from the Lundblad family.
Generally speaking, research into FM itself —i.e., excluding drugs originated for other conditions that were tested, approved, and rebranded for FM prescribing, with limited benefit— has been poorly funded, federal allocations often suffering the same nondisbursement hold-up and diversion to other research at the NIH as has been the case with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, popularly known as chronic fatigue syndrome (Encephalomyelitis itself refers to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, myalgiaindicating muscle pain: “a disease involving presumed inflammation of the central nervous system with symptoms of muscle pain and fatigue” which suggests the possibility that FM research of this kind may turn out illuminating for ME/CFS as well.]
As sparse as FM research is, however, it’s longevity dates back respectably far, including brain studies, e.g.,
Patients suffering from FM often report unrefreshing sleep. A study conducted in 1975 by Moldovsky et al. showed that the delta wave activity of these patients in stages 3 and 4 sleep were often interrupted by alpha waves. They later showed that depriving the body of delta wave sleep activity also induced musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
The source for this diary is https://www.medscape com/viewarticle/904827 by Marcia Frellick — November 13, 2018. MEDSCAPE is a mostly-plain-English news, reference & med-journal republication service geared for professionals but FREE to all who register – the reg’n process can be started when you first click on a Medscapelink. A very large number of medical journals worldwide contribute to Medscape, and many articles are commentable, making the site — if you use a screen-name for privacy, devise one that won’t undermine the impact of your comments. Articles with videos provide a transcript below the vid window — click sound off if you’d rather just read. Some articles are slideshows or quizes with accompanying text. Keep in mind that the competitive nature of publishing can skew writing in any field to suggest certainties not fully supported by data… Medical science, like every realm of human endeavor, is work in progress. Read critically for best results. 😉