Understanding Brain Immune Interactions in Fibromyalgia May Lead to Better Treatments

Understanding Brain Immune Interactions in Fibromyalgia May Lead to Better Treatments
While fibromyalgia is increasingly viewed as a serious medical problem, patients are still regularly dismissed with demeaning comments like the disease is just in their heads. But new brain research might prove that this notion is right – just not in the way of condescending criticism. Jarred Younger at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was convinced that there was more to fibromyalgia than the research and clinical communities were willing to admit. “I made it my mission to figure out what is wrong with these patients and how to treat them,” he recently told the UAB Magazine in an article focusing on his research, "Prisoners of Pain – Solving the mysteries of fibromyalgia could help patients break free." When studying pain as a young postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, his conviction that fibromyalgia was a poorly understood medical condition led him to survey immune molecules in the blood of fibromyalgia patients. He discovered that leptin, a factor released by fat tissue, was much higher in fibromyalgia patients than in healthy people. And not only were the levels higher, but Younger also discovered that the concentrations could predict patients’ severity of symptoms from day to day. Research in past decades has revealed how intertwined the immune system and brain really are. Realizing that the brain was a likely source of the symptoms patients experienced, Younger’s initial findings led him to steer his attention in the direction of the central nervous system. Leptin is a molecule that, unlike many others, can pass into the br
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