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From the Townsend Letter
October 2006


Recent Progress in Clinical Applications
and Research in Fibromyalgia

by Robert W. Bradford, Professor of Medicine, D. Sc. NMD, and Henry W. Allen, Director of Clinical Biochemistry, BRI

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Continued. . . 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion
Most patients with fibromyalgia complain of sleep disturbances, fatigue, and pain. These symptoms may be a consequence of altered melatonin (MT) secretion since melatonin is known to have sleep-promoting properties. In addition, serum concentrations of two melatonin precursors (tryptophan and serotonin) appear to be low in fibromyalgia patients. It is hypothesized that both mycoplasma and fungi contribute to sleep disorders.

In another study, eight fibromyalgia patients and eight healthy controls were measured for melatonin during sleep, showing a 31% lower melatonin secretion for the patients compared to the controls.15 See Chart 1A, Common Symptoms and Characteristics of Fibromyalgia.

Chart 1A: Common Symptoms and Characteristics of Fibromyalgia

  • Muscle PainSleep Disturbances
  • Neuroendocrine Performance Defects
  • Abnormal Pain Response (Tender Points)
  • Gender Difference (Greater Incidence in Females)
  • Skin Hypoxia Above Tender Points
  • Sensitivity to Aluminum, Lead, Platinum
  • Type II Muscle Fiber Atrophy
  • Proliferation of Mitochondria (in Type I Muscle Fibers)
  • Altered Cerebral Blood Flow
  • Genetic Alterations
  • Depression/Anxiety
  • Arrythmia
  • Bursitis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vertigo
  • Thyroid problems
  • Tinnitis
  • Cartilage Softening
  • Cardio Insufficiency
  • Respiratory Insufficiency
  • Serotonin Pathway Dysfunction
  • Altered Melatonin Secretion
  • Antibodies to Serotonin and Receptor
  • Lowered Serum Serotonin
  • Edema of Extremities
  • Adrenal Insufficiency


Antibodies to Serotonin
Antibodies to serotonin, gangliosides, and phospholipids have been found in about 70% of fibromyalgia patients. CFS patients showed serotonin antibodies in 62% of those studied. Antibodies to serotonin were closely related to FMS/CFS, while antibodies to gangliosides and phospholipids could also be detected in other disorders. The observation that family members of CFS and fibromyalgia patients also had these antibodies presents evidence for genetic predisposition or infections.16,17

In a group of clinically defined fibromyalgia patients, 74% had antibodies against serotonin and gangliosides. Since gangliosides are an important component of the serotonin receptor, these antibodies may include those made against the receptor as well.18 Serum levels of serotonin are also significantly lower in fibromyalgia patients.19 See Chart 1.

Serotonin Level in Jaw Muscle
The level of serotonin in 35 patients complaining of pain and tenderness in the jaw muscle was measured. Eighteen suffered from fibromyalgia, and 17 had localized facial pain. The level of serotonin in the jaw muscle was compared to that of the blood serum. Higher levels of serotonin in the jaw muscle were found in the fibromyalgia patients than in healthy individuals. High levels of serotonin were associated with pain in these patients.20

Bilayer Lipid Membrane
To explain adequately several biochemical mechanisms related to fibromyalgia, enabling the reader to understand in detail more recent discoveries, here is a brief overview of related biochemical structures, including the plasma or bilayer lipid membrane, membrane receptors and membrane ion channels.

Surrounding every animal cell is a molecular membrane (not to be confused with those animal membranes large enough to be seen) consisting of two leaflets in opposition to each other (bilayer). Each leaflet consists of a sheet or array of molecules comprised of long-chain fatty acids permanently attached to a support. The support is a chain of three carbon atoms (glycerol or glycerin) to which is attached two long-chain fatty acids. Fatty acids consist of chains of (typically) 15 to 20 carbon atoms to which are attached hydrogen atoms (two hydrogen per carbon). These components are fat-soluble (hydrophobic, or water-incompatible). To the third carbon of glycerol is attached a group which is water-soluble (water-compatible or hydrophilic). The water-related groups lie outside the membrane, while the fat-soluble chains comprise the central portion of the membrane.

Imbedded in this lipid membrane are large proteins, found either outside the cell, inside the cell, or extending completely through the membrane, projecting into the water phase on both sides of the membrane. Some of these transmembrane proteins function as "receptors" for other simple organic molecules and serve to convey messages from one side of the membrane to the other. This transfer of information across an otherwise impenetrable barrier surrounding the cell is commonly performed by hormones and other messengers.

Each receptor is capable of binding only one specific kind of substance or molecule, not binding any other kind. When a receptor binds to the specific molecule for which it has specificity, a shape change occurs in the receptor, resulting in a biochemical response within the cell. Through this process, external chemical messengers convey signals through the outer surface of the cell to the inside, resulting in a response by the cell to the external messenger.

Some membrane receptors have a specialized function and are known as "ion channels." When a specific molecule is bound by this receptor, a channel in the receptor opens, allowing positively charged particles (ions) to pass through. These ions include sodium, potassium and calcium. See Figure 1.(26KB .pdf)

Nerve Cells
A typical nerve cell consists of a long filament or axon whose terminal end lies in close proximity to another nerve cell. The space between them is known as the synaptic cleft. One nerve cell communicates with another through the release of a chemical substance known as a neurotransmitter, held within small sacs (vesicles) lying near the terminal end. An electrical pulse travels the length of the axon and, when it reaches the nerve cell terminal, causes the vesicles to rupture through the presynaptic membrane and discharge the neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. The neurotransmitter is bound by a protein (receptor) in the postsynaptic membrane of the adjoining nerve cell causing in turn, the transmission of an electrical pulse down the axon of the second nerve cell. By this mechanism, nerve cells communicate with one another through the action of a neurotransmitter. One such neurotransmitter is a simple organic substance known as serotonin.61 See Figure 2.(19KB .pdf)

Continued. . . 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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