Fibromyalgia pain associated with premature chromosomal telomere shortening: University of Michigan

Pain is associated with short leukocyte telomere length in women with fibromyalgia
– Source: Journal of Pain, Oct 2012

By Afton L Hassett, et al.

[ Ed Note: A full text, illustrated pdf poster of this important new research (abstract below), is available at Emerging research also strongly suggests oxidative stress / inflammation plays a role in telomere shortening, and that essential nutrients may play a crucial role in telomere health. See for example:

“Omega-3 Trial Suggests ‘Nutritional Supplement Might Actually Make a Difference in Aging’” (trial at Ohio State reported telomere preservation in omega-3 supplemented cohort vs controls)

“Nutrition for Healthy Telemeres – May Help Slow the Biological Clock” (a review of research on telomere destruction and benefits of nutritional support) ]

Telomere length, considered a measure of biological aging, is linked to morbidity and mortality.

Psychosocial factors associated with shortened telomeres are also common in chronic pain; yet, little is known about telomere length in pain populations.

Leukocyte telomere length was evaluated in 66 women with fibromyalgia and 22 healthy female controls.

Participants completed questionnaires and a subgroup of fibromyalgia patients underwent quantitative sensory testing (QST; n = 12) and neuroimaging (n = 12).

Telomere length was measured using the quantitative polymerase chain reaction method.

• Although patients had shorter telomere length than controls, the difference was not statistically significant.

• However, higher levels of pain within fibromyalgia were associated with shorter telomere length (P = .039).

• When pain and depression were combined, patients categorized as high-pain/high-depression had an age-adjusted telomere length 265 base pairs shorter than those with low-pain/low-depression (P = .043), a difference consistent with approximately 6 years of chronological aging.

In the subset tested, telomere length:

• Was also related to pain threshold and pain sensitivity as well as gray matter volume,

• Such that patients with shorter telomeres were more sensitive to evoked pain and had less gray matter in brain regions associated with pain processing (e.g., primary somatosensory cortex).

These preliminary data support a relationship between pain and telomere length.


Our findings support a link between premature cellular aging and chronic pain. These preliminary data imply that chronic pain is a more serious condition than has typically been recognized in terms of bodily aging.

Source: Journal of Pain, Oct 2012; 13(10):959-69. PMID:23031395, by Hassett AL, Epel E, Clauw DJ, Harris RE, Harte SE, Kairys A, Buyske S, Williams DA. Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. E-mail:]

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