Active Transposable Elements in Immune Cells Can Lead to Flu-Like Symptoms in Fibromyalgia, Study Finds

Active Transposable Elements in Immune Cells Can Lead to Flu-Like Symptoms in Fibromyalgia, Study Finds
Active transposable elements — small DNA fragments that can change position within the genome — found in immune cells of women with fibromyalgia can increase the levels of certain immune proteins, and be the reason why some patients experience flu-like symptoms, a study suggests. The study, “Activation of Transposable Elements in Immune Cells of Fibromyalgia Patients,” was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. People with fibromyalgia frequently have myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), a condition characterized by overwhelming fatigue that is not alleviated by rest.  While both fibromyalgia and ME/CFS share common features, including abnormal immune function and infectious flu-like symptoms, no clear connection with viral infections has been found.  In 2019, a team of investigators at the Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir, in Spain, found the activation of transposable elements (TEs) that constantly change position within the genome (all genes in our DNA) might trigger flu-like symptoms in ME/CFS patients in the absence of an infection. These findings were supported by work from another group of researchers who found TEs called human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) were highly active in patients with ME/CFS. HERVs are DNA leftovers from retroviral infections and their dysregulation has been linked to several neurologic and autoimmune diseases. These findings prompted the team in Spain to investigate if HERVs could also be involved in the flu-like symptoms seen in patients with fibromyalgia. To find out, they collected blood samples from 14 women with fibromyalgia, ages 42–65, and 14 healthy women (controls), ages 38–65, to isolate peripheral blood mononuclear c
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