Mitochondrial dysfunction is thought of as a real possibility in chronic fatigue syndrome, but I’ve rarely associated it with fibromyalgia or pain. It turns out, however, that multiple studies – most of them small – suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction could indeed play a significant role in fibromyalgia.
Studies suggest the energy factories may be running a bit low in FM.
- Muscle biopsies have found patterns of mitochondrial dysfunction (abnormal mitochondria, mitochondrial defects and muscle fiber abnormalities) similar to those typically found in mitochondrial disorders.
- Some skin biopsies have shown patterns of neurogenic inflammation and oxidative stress – two factors that negatively impact the mitochondria.
- Peripheral blood cells have demonstrated CoQ10 deficiency, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and mitochondrial degradation.
Significant reductions in mitochondrial enzyme activity (in complexes I, II, III and IV) were found in the FM patients but not the healthy controls. That in combination with reduced levels of mitochondrial proteins indicated that mitochondrial functioning was indeed significantly reduced. So were CoQ10 and ATP levels and mitochondrial DNA levels.
A similar situation appears to apply in diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy and/or allodynia. Low levels mitochondria have also been associated with small fiber neuropathy – a condition that appears to occur in about 40% of people with fibromyalgia.
Cancer pain researchers are looking at novel treatments to undo this mitochondrial/inflammatory mess. They include ways to block peroxynitrite and heat shock proteins, using minocycline, an antibiotic, to attenuate activated microglia, and adenosine receptor agonists to protect the nerves. If mitochondrial dysfunction does induce pain in cancer any of the above could ultimately show up as a treatment option for FM patients.
Several studies suggest that mitochondrial enhancers such as CoQ10 may be helpful in reducing the pain and headache symptoms in FM.
C0Q10 levels are reportedly low in many neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia and cancer. A fibromyalgia study by this Spanish research group found a 50% reduction in COQ10 levels in FM.
On the ME/CFS side, Maes has been producing review papers and studies on oxidative stress, mitochondrial functioning and inflammation for years. Presentations on the exercise problems in ME/CFS at the IACFS/ME Conference also appeared to be pointing an arrow at the mitochondria.
The results of one such study – the multi-center Synergy trial in chronic fatigue syndrome – that’s been testing the effectiveness of a low-dose stimulant in combination with mitochondrial and immune enhancing supplements in ME/CFS – should be out around mid-year.
We’ll be exploring the roles CoQ10 and the mitochondria may play in FM and chronic fatigue syndrome in a future blog
Read more: Is Fibromyalgia A Mitochondrial Disorder? http://www.cortjohnson.org/blog/2015/03/04/is-fibromyalgia-a-mitochondrial-disorder/