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Researchers Identify a Potential Biomarker to Distinguish Fibromyalgia from Arthritis

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Editor's comment: Mucosal-associated invariant T cells (MAITs) are a special type of T cell, which appear to play a regulatory role in immunity.

Mucosal-associated invariant T cell is a potential marker to distinguish fibromyalgia syndrome from arthritis.


BACKGROUND: Fibromyalgia (FM) is defined as a widely distributed pain. While many rheumatologists and pain physicians have considered it to be a pain disorder, psychiatry, psychology, and general medicine have deemed it to be a syndrome (FMS) or psychosomatic disorder. The lack of concrete structural and/or pathological evidence has made patients suffer prejudice that FMS is a medically unexplained symptom, implying inauthenticity. Furthermore, FMS often exhibits comorbidity with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or spondyloarthritis (SpA), both of which show similar indications. In this study, disease specific biomarkers were sought in blood samples from patients to facilitate objective diagnoses of FMS, and distinguish it from RA and SpA.

METHODS: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients and healthy donors (HD) were subjected to multicolor flow cytometric analysis. The percentage of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in PBMCs and the mean fluorescent intensity (MFI) of cell surface antigen expression in MAIT cells were analyzed.

RESULTS: There was a decrease in the MAIT cell population in FMS, RA, and SpA compared with HD.

  • Among the cell surface antigens in MAIT cells, three chemokine receptors, CCR4, CCR7, and CXCR1, a natural killer (NK) receptor, NKp80, a signaling lymphocyte associated molecule (SLAM) family, CD150, a degrunulation marker, CD107a, and a coreceptor, CD8β emerged as potential biomarkers for FMS to distinguish from HD.

  • Additionally, a memory marker, CD44 and an inflammatory chemokine receptor, CXCR1 appeared possible markers for RA, while a homeostatic chemokine receptor, CXCR4 deserved for SpA to differentiate from FMS.

  • Furthermore, the drug treatment interruption resulted in alternation of the expression of CCR4, CCR5, CXCR4, CD27, CD28, inducible costimulatory molecule (ICOS), CD127 (IL-7 receptor α), CD94, NKp80, an activation marker, CD69, an integrin family member, CD49d, and a dipeptidase, CD26, in FMS.

CONCLUSIONS: Combined with the currently available diagnostic procedures and criteria, analysis of MAIT cells offers a more objective standard for the diagnosis of FMS, RA, and SpA, which exhibit multifaceted and confusingly similar clinical manifestations.

Source: PloS One, April 8, 2015. By Chie Sugimoto, Takahiko Konno, Rika Wakao, Hiroko Fujita, Hiroyoshi Fujita and Hiroshi Wakao. Department of Hygiene & Cellular Preventive Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-8638, Japan.

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