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Mapping Genes for Fibromyalgia

In a study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, led by Jane Olson, PhD, investigators looked to identify genes that predispose to fibromyalgia in order to better understand the causes and biological mechanisms of this illness.

Because fibromyalgia often occurs in more than one member of a family, researchers suspect that there may be a genetic component to the syndrome. Dr. Olson's team is identifying and collecting medical information from participant families in which two or more members have fibromyalgia. The data collected comes from routine blood tests, physical examinations (including tender point examinations), medical histories, and genetic measurements of DNA and measurements of platelet serotonin. (Serotonin is a chemical found primarily in the blood platelets, as well as in the intestinal wall and the central nervous system. It is believed to play a role in inflammation and also acts as a neurotransmitter (a nervous system signaling molecule), especially in the sleep process.) Family members also are asked to fill out questionnaires relating to their physical activity and health status.

To date, more than 140 families have participated in the study, and researchers have begun the genetic analyses. They think initial results confirm that the genes associated with serotonin play a role in fibromyalgia. The researchers expect to make more comprehensive results available next year.