Fibromyalgia is said to be the result of autoimmune problems

New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Karolinska Institute, has shown that many symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome (SFM) are caused by antibodies that increase the activity of pain-sensitive nerves throughout the body.

A disease of the immune system

These findings show that fibromyalgia is a disease of the immune system, rather than the popular belief that it originates in the brain. This study shows that increased sensitivity to pain, muscle weakness, reduced movement and decreased number of small nerve fibers in the skin, hallmarks of FMS, are all consequences of patient antibodies.

The researchers injected mice with antibodies from people with FMS and observed that these mice quickly developed increased sensitivity to pressure and cold, as well as reduced grip strength during movements. In contrast, mice injected with antibodies from healthy people were unaffected, demonstrating that the patients’ antibodies are the cause of, or at least contribute to, this disease.

In addition, mice injected with antibodies to fibromyalgia recovered after a few weeks, when these antibodies were cleared from their system. This finding strongly suggests that therapies that reduce antibody levels in patients are likely to be effective treatments. Such therapies are already available and are used to treat other disorders caused by autoantibodies.

A very widespread disease

Dr David Andersson, principal investigator of this study said: “The implications of this study are profound. Establishing that fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disorder will transform the way we think about it and should pave the way for more effective treatments for the millions of people affected. Our work has revealed a whole new area of ​​therapeutic options and should give real hope to patients with fibromyalgia. “

“Earlier exploration of therapies has been hampered by our limited understanding of this disease. This should now change. Treatment of FMS has focused on gentle aerobic exercise, as well as drug and psychological therapies to manage pain, although these have been shown to be ineffective in most patients and have left behind a huge unmet clinical need. . “

Current estimates suggest that FMS affects at least one in 40 people worldwide (80% of whom are women) and is typically characterized by widespread pain throughout the body, as well as fatigue (often referred to as “fibro fog”). ) and emotional distress. It most often develops between the ages of 25 and 55, although children can also have it.

Dr Andreas Goebel, principal clinical investigator of this study at the University of Liverpool, said: “When I started this study in the UK, I expected some cases of fibromyalgia to be autoimmune. But David’s team found antibodies responsible for the pain in every patient they recruited. These results offer incredible hope that the invisible and devastating symptoms of fibromyalgia will become treatable. “

Diagnostic blood tests

Professor Camilla Svensson, principal investigator of this study at the Karolinska Institute, said: “Antibodies from people with FMS living in two different countries, the UK and Sweden, gave similar results, which reinforces considerably our conclusions. The next step will be to identify the factors that the symptom-inducing antibodies bind to. This will help us not only to develop new treatment strategies for FMS, but also to develop diagnostic blood tests, which are currently lacking. “

Dr Craig Bullock, Head of Research, Discovery and Innovation at Versus Arthritis, said: “Fibromyalgia affects millions of people in the UK and can have a devastating impact on the quality of life. It causes pain throughout the body, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and regular flare-ups where symptoms worsen. “

Treatment in the relatively near future

“Fibromyalgia is a particularly difficult disease to diagnose and manage because its causes are unknown. This research shows that antibodies in human blood can cause fibromyalgia-like symptoms in the patient.

mice, which suggests that these antibodies play a crucial role in this disease. More research is needed, but these findings give hope to millions of people with fibromyalgia that an effective treatment may be discovered in the relatively near future. “

This research was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Source: King’s College London

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