New Research - Cytokines in FM?

A possible paradigm shift study published in BMC Clinical Pathology  on December 17, 2012, describes cytokine abnormalities in fibromyalgia (FM) patients compared to healthy controls.  It expands the theory that significant immune-dysfunction is part of FM pathogenesis. More relevant is that this scientific study identified a blood testing method that demonstrates value as a FM diagnostic tool.  Researchers used multiple methods to examine cytokine (proteins that help regulate your immune response) levels in people with fibromyalgia.  Their findings demonstrated that the FM group had considerably lower cytokine concentration than the control group, which implies that cell-mediated immunity is impaired in fibromyalgia.

Continue here from February 2013 FM-CP Advocate Newsletter

Interestingly, this published study demonstrates an immunology response in people with FM which strays from the last decade of science that has pointed to abnormalities in the central nervous system.  The science of neuroimmunology, which has only been around for about ten years, may hold some interesting answers that might illuminate these disparities.  Neuroimmunology is the field that combines the study of the nervous system and the immune system.  This area of science seeks to better understand the interaction of these two complex systems during development, homeostasis, and response to injuries.  A goal of this new area of science is to further develop the understanding of the pathology of several neurological diseases, some of which have no clear cause.  The study of the interactions of both the immune and nervous systems,including the physiological (study of origin) function, has stimulated the development of new pharmacological treatments for several neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis.

Neural targets that control thermogenics (body temperature), behavior, sleep and mood can be affected by pro-inflammatory cytokines (small cell-signaling molecules) which are released by activated macrophages and monocytes during infection.  The production of cytokines in the central nervous system has been detected as a result of brain injury, during viral and bacterial infections, and in neurodegenerative processes.

More From the National Institutes of Health[1]:
“Despite the brain’s status as an immune privileged site, an extensive bi-directional communication takes place between the nervous and the immune system in both health and disease.  Immune cells and neuroimmune molecules such as cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors modulate brain function through multiple signaling pathways throughout the lifespan.  Immunological, physiological and psychological stressors engage cytokines and other immune molecules as mediators of interactions with neuroendocrine, neuropeptide, and neurotransmitter systems.  For example, brain cytokine levels increase following stress exposure, while treatments designed to alleviate stress reverse this effect.

"Neuroinflammation and neuroimmune activation have been shown to play a role in the etiology of a variety of neurological disorders such as stroke, Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, pain, and AIDS-associated dementia. However, cytokines and chemokines also modulate CNS function in the absence of overt immunological, physiological, or psychological challenges. For example, cytokines and cytokine receptor inhibitors affect cognitive and emotional processes. Recent evidence suggests that immune molecules modulate brain systems differently across the lifespan. Cytokines and chemokines regulate neurotrophins and other molecules critical to neurodevelopmental processes, and exposure to certain neuroimmune challenges early in life affects brain development. In adults, cytokines and chemokines affect synaptic plasticity and other ongoing neural processes, which may change in aging brains. Finally, interactions of immune molecules with the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal system indicate that sex differences are a significant factor determining the impact of neuroimmune influences on brain function and behavior."

It will be interesting to see where this new area of fibromyalgia research will lead and what kind of help it will offer patients.

[1] Function Links between the Immune System, Brain Function and Behavior

Click here to read more about neuroimmunology from the National Institutes of Health


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