PET scans show fibromyalgia patients have inflammation in the brain – Oct. 5, 2018 – By Serena Gordon, HealthDay News
“Finding an objective neurochemical change in the brains of people who are used to being told that their problems are imaginary is pretty important,” explained senior study author Marco Loggia.
I think this is wonderful news. The public usuallly believes that fibromyalgia isn’t a “real” condition, so our suffering from the chronic pain it causes is dismissed as “psychological”. We still can’t detect or measure the pain, but now there’s a way to objectively detect one syndrome/disease that’s causing it.
The new research used an advanced imaging test called positron emission tomography, or PET, and looked at 31 people with fibromyalgia and 27 healthy “controls” from Boston and Stockholm, Sweden.
Dr. Harry Gewanter, a master of the American College of Rheumatology said, “There’s a heck of a lot of stigma associated with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. I think it’s going to make a lot of people feel much better to know that there are physiologic changes you can find,” Gewanter said
Fibromyalgia causes pain throughout the body, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition also causes sleep problems, fatigue and difficulty with thinking and memory.
The disorder affects about 4 million Americans, the CDC reports.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, though the researchers said it’s likely a disease of the central nervous system
When the researchers compared the scans of people with fibromyalgia to healthy controls, they saw more inflammation in the immune cells of the brain — glia — in people with fibromyalgia.
Loggia said the findings might lead to better ways to test fibromyalgia treatments, to see if they reduce inflammation. It’s also possible that this finding may eventually help researchers tease out the cause of the disorder
Gewanter said this study gives scientists a number of possible directions to go. One is to be able to follow a treatment to see how well it works. Another is possibly developing ways to intervene with new treatments.
Here’s another, more technical, article about this discovery
Fibromyalgia Patients Show Elevated Brain Glial Activation – by Milla Bengtsson October 1, 2018
Widespread inflammation in the brains of patients with the poorly understood condition called fibromyalgia has now been documented for the first time.
Characterized by symptoms including chronic widespread pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and problems with thinking and memory, fibromyalgia affects around 4 million adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Previous research from the Karolinska group led by Eva Kosek, MD, PhD, co-senior author of the current study, suggested a potential role for neuroinflammation in the condition – including elevated levels of inflammatory proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid – but no previous study has directly visualized neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients.
Overexpressed Translocator Protein
A 2015 study by Loggia’s team used combined MR/PET scanning to document neuroinflammation – specifically activation of glial cells – in the brains of patients with chronic back pain.
Hypothesizing that similar glial activation might be found in fibromyalgia patients as well, his team used the same PET radiopharmaceutical, which binds to the translocator protein (TSPO) that is overexpressed by activated glial cells, in their study enrolling 20 fibromyalgia patients and 14 control volunteers.
Neuroinflammation And Microglia
The results from both centers found that glial activation in several regions of the brains of fibromyalgia patients was significantly greater than it was in control participants.
Compared to the MGH team’s chronic back pain study, TSPO elevations were more widespread throughout the brain, which Loggia indicates corresponds to the more complex symptom patterns of fibromyalgia.
This is the first time I’ve seen a study investigating the difference between other kinds of chronic pain and fibromyalgia. Finally, there’s proof that fibromyalgia is a very real and specific condition.
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.
Here are some previous posts that also support this idea:
- Neuroinflammation: Underlying Cause of Chronic Pain
- New Tx Target for Fibro: Brain Inflammation
- Fibromyalgia – Neuroinflammatory Disease?
- Glial Cell Activation and Neuroinflammation