Link between DNA and chronic widespread joint pain

Link between DNA and chronic widespread joint pain

Researchers 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.

One of the authors of the study 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.'

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.

These include malate dehydrogenase 2, tetranectin, and heat shock protein beta-6 (HSPB6; p-value 0.016). The associations between the collagen type I, alpha 2 chain (COL1A2) and monoamine oxidase B (MAOB) observed in the discovery sample–both of which have been previously reported to be biological candidates for pain–could not be replicated.

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.