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The William Harvey Research Institute - Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

An immunological basis of chronic widespread pain in fibromyalgia

In a new study researchers from Queen Mary University of London demonstrate that neutrophils cause chronic widespread pain in fibromyalgia.


Fibromyalgia is a debilitating widespread chronic pain syndrome that occurs in 2-4% of the population. The prevailing view that fibromyalgia results from central nervous system dysfunction has recently been challenged with data showing changes in peripheral nervous system activity.

The study, published in PNAS, shows that chronic widespread pain in fibromyalgia is caused by a dysfunctional immune response in circulating cells of the blood called neutrophils, rather than the conventional view that fibromyalgia pain is a brain based phenomenon. 

Dr Shafaq Sikandar, Lead author and Senior Lecturer in Sensory Biology said:  “Neutrophils are shown to have an unexpected role in the pathological process of producing chronic pain despite being short lived immune cells that normally help fight infections. This study provides unique evidence that chronic widespread pain in fibromyalgia is caused by a dysfunction in the immune system. It opens the door to understanding the cross talk between the nervous and immune systems in chronic pain, and also suggests that chronic widespread pain can be targeted using a precision medicine approach”

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