Researchers in Spain have provided the first report that mitochrondria could be affected in fibromyalgia, and may cause problems with the skin and pain in this disease. The study, titled “Oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and, inflammation common events in skin of patients with Fibromyalgia“ appeared in the February 7th issue of Mitochondrion.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is characterized by chronic pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and mood disturbances. Women are more often affected than men. Symptoms can start following a physical trauma, significant psychological stress, surgery or illness. In other instances, there is no clear trigger and symptoms increase over time.
The cause of this disease is not known, and for many years some physicians have doubted its existence altogether. Recent research indicates that oxidative stress, mitochondrial problems and inflammation could all be behind the cause of the disease. Oxidative stress refers to the production of damaging free-radicals faster than the body is able to de-toxify by removing them. Free radicals are produced by cells in the mitochondria; the power houses of the cells that create energy. Inflammation is an immune process gone wrong, and is characteristically seen in autoimmune diseases in which the body’s immune cells have launched self-attack. All of these processes together could contribute to FM, with the mitochondria in particular being possibly involved.
Despite a probable important role of mitochondria in FM, few have studied this. In particular, mitochondria abnormalities might be responsible for skin problems in FM. According to the researchers “Despite several skin-related symptoms accompanied by small fiber neuropathy have been studied in FM, these mitochondrial changes have not been yet studied in this tissue.”
The scientists, led by first author Benito Sánchez-Domíngueza, took skin biopsies from patients with FM. They found significant mitochondrial problems and increased oxidative stress. These measurements also went up with increased inflammation and pain — the main symptom of FM. The scientists speculated that peripheral nerve damage may also be involved, since all of the measured factors are common characteristics of peripheral nerve damage.
In their report, the researchers state “Our findings may support the role of oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammation as interdependent events in the pathophysiology of FM with a special role in the peripheral alterations.”
This study may point toward treatments for FM that specifically target mitochondrial function, inflammation and oxidative stress. In particular, the mitochondria may be involved in the common skin and pain issues that occur in fibromyalgia.