Fibromyalgia Syndrome – An Autoimmune Disorder

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New research on mice finds evidence of fibromyalgia arising due to the body’s immune system and not the brain.

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) continues to be one of the most common chronic pain disorders. The syndrome usually presents as widespread pain, fatigue, and emotional distress. Patients often complain of increased sensitivity to pain and sleep issues. However, due to a limited understanding of its cause, patients are often disregarded. Moreover, there are no specific diagnostic tests or effective treatments for the disease. Hence, it continues to affect millions of lives across the world.

In the past, researchers have often associated the disorder with a fault in the brain and spinal cord and how they process pain signals from the nerves. However, recent research suggests fibromyalgia might occur as a result of an autoimmune response.

Researchers at King’s College London, in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Karolinska Institute, have found evidence of how the body’s own antibodies may trigger the symptoms. They published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Establishing that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder will transform how we view the condition and should pave the way for more effective treatments for the millions of people affected

Dr. David Andersson, study author

Antibodies Contribute to Disease

To test out their hypothesis, the team injected mice with antibodies extracted from fibromyalgia patients. While another group of mice received antibodies from healthy adults. Next, the researchers observed the mice for characteristic symptoms of FMS.

Results revealed that the mice that received antibodies from fibromyalgia patients had an increased sensitivity to pressure and cold. Additionally, they also demonstrated reduced grip strength and a loss of skin nerve fibres. The findings of the study suggest that the syndrome may in fact have an autoimmune origin.

The next step will be to identify what factors the symptom-inducing antibodies bind to. This will help us not only in terms of developing novel treatment strategies for FMS, but also of blood-based tests for diagnosis, which are missing today.

Professor Camilla Svensson, study’s primary investigator

According to the study’s primary investigator, Professor Camilla Svensson, the fact that antibodies from people in two different countries gave similar results, adds to the study’s strengths. Furthermore, once the antibodies cleared from the affected mice, they returned back to normal. Thus, confirming that antibodies are the main contributor to the illness.

Although further research is required to understand how these antibodies give rise to symptoms of FMS, the study is a great step in finding effective treatments for the condition.

Reference:

Andreas Goebel et al, Passive transfer of fibromyalgia symptoms from patients to mice, Journal of Clinical Investigation (2021). DOI: 10.1172/JCI144201

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