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Cure for painful malady is closer
Monday 10 June 2013
Cure for painful malady is closer
Rensselaer company displays advances in fighting fibromyalgia
A potential breakthrough on the mystery of fibromyalgia — a painful muscle and nerve condition that affects millions of people — was among biotechnology advances on display Friday at a conference for Capital Region companies in the burgeoning field.
Integrated Tissue Dynamics, of Rensselaer, had peer-reviewed research published this week that found fibromyalgia is caused by excessive, abnormal nerve activity that disrupts blood flow to and from the hands and feet. That, in turn, can cause insufficient flow to muscles, resulting in the disorder's chronic deep muscular pain.
Done at Albany Medical College, with support from the Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience and from Upstate Clinical Research, the project was part of the second annual Bioconnex conference sponsored by the Center for Economic Growth. It was published in the professional journal Pain Medicine.
Up to now, the physical cause of fibromyalgia has been a mystery. Unable to locate a source, doctors often reached the diagnosis after ruling out other potential problems. Current treatments focus on drugs that target pain receptors in the brain, and those treatments were not always effective.
ITD President Frank Rice said the new knowledge may help the biopharmaceutical industry one day develop treatments that target the source of the pain, rather than just masking it. To help understand the problem, Rice likened the body to a car, where coolant is carried in tubes between the engine and radiator, with the flow controlled by a mechanical thermostat.
In the body, the engine is the heart, blood is the coolant, and the feet and hands, which receive half of the body's total blood flow, are the radiator, helping the body shed or conserve heat. The cause of fibromyalgia is in the thermostat, which in the body's case, are small structures called arteriole-venule shunts.
These function as a kind of plumbing valve between the arteries and the veins. When properly controlled by surrounding nerves, the valves open and close, directing more blood to hands and feet when the body needs to cool down, or more blood to the rest of the body when muscles are active.
But in female patients with fibromyalgia, there were excessive nerves around shunts that were not functioning properly, Rice said.
With this plumbing altered, blood flow out of the hands and feet was not happening as it should. This can leave too little blood going to muscles, where lactic acid can build up and cause diffuse pain, he said. Too much blood in hands and feet can also stimulate the shunt nerves, causing those parts of the body to be sensitive, another common complaint by fibromyalgia sufferers.
Women have more of these nerves along their blood vessels than men, and are more likely to suffer from the condition. These nerves also appear to be susceptible to damage from stress, which might help induce fibromyalgia, Rice said. "This damage can be caused by traumatic experiences. We are studying now whether there might be a link between fibromyalgia to post-traumatic stress syndrome," he said.
The above originally appeared here.
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