Groundbreaking blood test accurately detects fibromyalgia

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ohio state university researchers testing for fibromyalgia
Researchers at The Ohio State University have developed a blood test to identify fibromyalgia. The experimental diagnostic tool measures metabolic activity in the blood, distinguishing fibromyalgia from other chronic pain conditions with near 100 percent accuracy. Credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Whenever we visit a doctor, he often tells us that we need to do a certain blood test and we often wonder why. It is usually because the blood test will let us know whether we have any disease or not.

A recent study done by Kevin Hackshaw, a professor at College of Medicine at the Ohio State University in Columbus and a rheumatologist at the university’s Wexner Medical Center, successfully found biomarkers for a condition called “fibromyalgia” in the patients’ blood samples which can make it easy to differentiate fibromyalgia from other similar diseases.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects 2–8 percent of the worldwide population and approximately 4 million adults in the United States. Most of the people living with fibromyalgia are women.

In order to research on this particular topic, Prof. Hackshaw and colleagues studied 50 people with a formal diagnosis of fibromyalgia, 29 people with rheumatoid arthritis, 19 with osteoarthritis, and 23 with lupus.

These conditions often co-occur with fibromyalgia. The researches then analyzed their blood samples using “vibrational spectroscopy“, a technique that measures the chemical bonds and energy levels of molecules.

The analysis found patterns that distinguished the blood samples of people with fibromyalgia from those who had related disorders. Moreover, further spectrometry measurements helped the scientists accurately predict the participants’ conditions based on their molecular pattern.

Dr Hackshaw testing patients with fibromyalgia
Dr Kevin Hackshaw examines fibromyalgia patient Barb Hartong at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. A new blood test may one day guide personalized treatment plans to relieve fibromyalgia pain. Credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

The researchers liken these molecular signatures with “metabolic fingerprints” and say that these findings will soon help develop more targeted treatments for fibromyalgia.

Prof. Hackshaw aims to have the test ready for use within 5 years. Luis Rodriguez-Saona, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State and a co-author on the study, says that the researchers want to examine groups of 150–200 people with each condition to see whether they can replicate the findings in a larger population sample. Further analysis could also help identify specific proteins that are responsible for fibromyalgia-specific symptoms. “We can look back into some of these fingerprints and potentially identify some of the chemicals associated with the differences we are seeing,” says Prof. Rodriguez-Saona.

Most physicians nowadays don’t question whether fibromyalgia is real, but there are still skeptics out there,” says Prof. Hackshaw. Furthermore, some doctors prescribe opioids to people with fibromyalgia, which may worsen the condition and lead to addiction.

Finally, the new findings also suggest that the metabolic fingerprints may offer insights into the severity of the illness in each patient also.” This could lead to better, more directed treatment for patients,” says Prof. Hackshaw.

So, let us hope that this technique comes into use as soon as possible so that it can save many lives.

Published Researchhttp://www.jbc.org/content/early/2018/12/06/jbc.RA118.005816.abstract

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