Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to diagnose, but a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests that may soon change.

In the absence of a blood test, clinicians rely on patient-reported symptoms and a physical evaluation of pain to diagnose fibromyalgia. Researchers from Ohio State University have identified a “metabolic fingerprint” of the disease that increases the probability a reliable blood test may be designed.1

The investigators analyzed blood samples from 121 participants with similar disorders – 50 with fibromyalgia, 29 with rheumatoid arthritis, 23 with lupus, and 19 with osteoarthritis – to establish a baseline pattern for each diagnosis. Using 2 types of spectroscopy, the researchers evaluated the samples blindly and were able to accurately place each participant into the correct disease category based on a molecular signature. The scientists identified patterns that differentiated blood samples from participants with fibromyalgia from the others.

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“We found clear, reproducible metabolic patterns in the blood of dozens of patients with fibromyalgia,” said lead researcher Kevin Hackshaw, an associate professor at Ohio State University’s College of Medicine. “This brings us much closer to a blood test than we have ever been.”2

Although as of now the disease is incurable, Hackshaw believes an accurate diagnosis may yield many benefits. Namely, it can help clinicians rule out other diseases, confirm that patients’ symptoms aren’t imagined, and guide clinicians toward disease recognition and appropriate treatment.

Reference

  1. Hackshaw KV, Aykas DP, Sigurdson GT, et al. Metabolic fingerprinting for diagnosis of fibromyalgia and other rheumatologic disorders. J Biol Chem. 2019;294(7):2555-2568.
  2. Experimental blood test accurately spots fibromyalgia. Ohio State News. March 18, 2019. Accessed March 20, 2019.