A study that was conducted by King’s College London in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Karolinska Institute shows that many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are caused by antibodies that increase the activity of pain sensing nerves.
The new research from King’s College London and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience that was carried out in collaboration with the University of Liverpool has illustrated that numerous symptoms of fibromyalgia are caused by antibodies that increase the activity of pain-sensing nerves throughout the body.
The findings of the study show fibromyalgia is a disease of the immune system rather than the previous belief that the cause of fibromyalgia is in the brain.
The study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation demonstrates that the increased pain sensitivity, reduced movement muscle weakness and decreased number of small nerve fibres in the human skin that are very common with fibromyalgia, are all a result of patient antibodies
There are profound implications that will derive from this study. Concluding that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder that will transform how fibromyalgia is perceived in the medical community and this should pave the way for researchers and doctors to create more effective treatments for the millions of people that suffer from fibromyalgia. The study has uncovered an entire new area of therapeutic options that should give real hope to those who have to live with fibromyalgia. The past explorations of therapies for fibromyalgia have been impaired by the limited understanding of the condition. However, this ground-breaking research should enable treatments for fibromyalgia to develop and become for efficient in treating the disease.
Many existing treatments for fibromyalgia consist of gentle aerobic exercises in cohesion with psychological therapies designed to help with pain management. However, these treatment methods have proven ineffective in most fibromyalgia patients. This has resulted in a tremendous unmet clinical need.
The study was carried out by injecting mice with antibodies from people who are living with fibromyalgia and the researchers observed that the mice rapidly developed an increased sensitivity to pressure and cold. The mice also displayed a reduced movement and grip strength. This differed from the mice that were injected with antibodies from healthy people were unaffected, demonstrating that the antibodies in patients are either the cause or a major contributor in the development of fibromyalgia.
The mice were also injected with fibromyalgia antibodies that were recovered after a few weeks, when the antibodies had been cleared from their system. This finding suggests that therapies which reduce antibody levels in fibromyalgia patients are likely to be effective treatments. Therapies already exist that focus on reducing the level of antibodies and are commonly used to treat other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.
It is currently estimated that approximately 1 in 40 people are affected by fibromyalgia worldwide, 80% of which are women, and it is commonly characterised by widespread pain throughout the body. Fatigue which is often referred to as ‘fibro fog’ and emotional distress are also common symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia commonly develops between the ages of 25 & 55 although children have been known to also be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Dr. Andreas Goebel who was the study’s principle clinical investigator from the University of Liverpool disclosed that he anticipated that some fibromyalgia cases may be due to autoimmune factors. However, the study found that there were pain-causing antibodies in each recruited patient. The result of the study offers hope that the invisible and devastating symptoms of fibromyalgia will become treatable and people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia will be able to have a higher quality of life.
Fibromyalgia affects millions of people in the UK and has devastating impact on quality of life. It causes pain all over the body, fatigue, flare-ups and disturbed sleep. Fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose and manage due to the cause of the disease being unknown. The research has shown that antibodies found in human blood can cause fibromyalgia symptoms in rodents. This suggests these antibodies could play a crucial role in the condition. Further research is needed but this offers hope to the millions of people with fibromyalgia that an effective treatment could be discovered in the near future.
Great credit must be given to the Medical Research Council (UK), Liverpool Pain Relief Foundation, Versus Arthritis, the Swedish Research Council, the Knut and Alive Wallenburg Foundation for funding the study which could be the first step in advancing treatments for fibromyalgia patients.