Fibromyalgia treatment options: activation of glial cells

Fibromyalgia treatment options: activation of glial cells
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Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and Harvard University, USA, have made a ground-breaking step towards finding fibromyalgia treatment options.

Fibromyalgia treatment options have been difficult to come by, however using PET brain imaging, this recent study may pave the way for new therapies.

Difficulties of developing fibromyalgia treatment options

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes muscle pain, severe fatigue, insomnia and cognitive difficulties, with patients experiencing symptoms of pain and tenderness throughout the body. Unfortunately for sufferers, the causes of the difficult-to-treat pain disorder is predominantly unknown.

“The findings open the way for the development of completely new therapies for this currently difficult-to-treat condition.” Says professor Eva Kosek from the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet.

Nevertheless, using PET brain imaging, researchers at Karolinska Institute and Harvard, have now shown that glial cells, the immune cells of the central nervous system, are activated in the brains of patients with fibromyalgia. Therefore, paving the way for fibromyalgia treatment options.

Past fibromyalgia treatment options

Research demonstrated that patients with fibromyalgia had elevated levels of certain inflammatory substances (cytokines) in the cerebrospinal fluid, suggesting inflammation of the central nervous system. Their findings were subsequently corroborated by other researchers, however the source of the inflammation remained unspecified.

Positron-emission topography (PET) brain imaging was used and the research team has now been able to demonstrate that the central nervous system’s immune cells, called glial cells, are activated and thus give rise to inflammation of the brain.

Kosek explains: “As far as we know, this is the first time it’s been shown that glial cells are involved in the pathogenesis of fibromyalgia.”

The results presented that in Swedish and American patients suffering with fibromyalgia, glial cells are activated in large parts of the cerebral cortex, and that the degree of activation was related to how tired the patient felt.

“The findings open the way for the development of completely new therapies for this currently difficult-to-treat condition.” says Kosek.

“The fact that scientific research is able to demonstrate objective aberrations in the brains of people with fibromyalgia will hopefully mitigate the suspicion with which patients are often treated by the health services and society.”

Today, an estimated 200,000 Swedes, majority of them being women, suffer from fibromyalgia. The brains of people with the condition are known to have an impaired ability to dampen pain signals, which means that things that are normally painless cause considerable discomfort.


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