London: Scientists at King’s College London, funded by the charity Arthritis Research UK, have found a link between changes in marks on the outside of DNA (epigenetics) and chronic widespread joint pain, one of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a common long-term chronic condition that causes fatigue and widespread pain in muscles and bones. Despite its prevalence, the causes of fibromyalgia are poorly understood and there are limited treatments available. There are no diagnostic tests and it cannot be detected using conventional tests such as scans or x-rays.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, will help
scientists towards the development of a blood test to diagnose
fibromyalgia, which affects as many as one in every 25 people.
Dr Frances Williams, one of the authors of the study from the
Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology said: ‘Fibromyalgia
is influenced by genetic factors but there are many complicated steps
between gene and disease. Identifying measurable epigenetic links is a
major step forward. In addition, the results will inform future research
in fibromyalgia as well as other chronic pain syndromes, such as
irritable bowel syndrome.’
Stephen Simpson, director of research and programmes at Arthritis
Research UK also commented on the research: ‘There are millions of
people in the UK who are living with the pain of fibromyalgia. This
really exciting research is an important step forward in our
understanding how epigenetic differences between individuals can
influence our likelihood of developing fibromyalgia and chronic
widespread musculoskeletal pain.’
‘For too long people with fibromyalgia have struggled to get a
diagnosis for their painful symptoms. This research will help pave the
way for better understanding, management and treatment of joint pain.’
The researchers used twins to investigate whether the patterns of
marks on DNA (DNA methylation) can affect how active the gene is in
producing particular proteins and if there is a difference in people
with and without chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. The scientists
identified three genes that had different amounts of DNA methylation in
people with and without chronic widespread pain.
Early indications suggest that people may have different patterns of
methylation on their DNA, and that this might be altering the activity
of some genes and causing their condition in the first place.