Seeking the origins of fibromyalgia

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Fibromyalgia — a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues — is difficult to diagnose, and patients’ pain is often dismissed as psychological because there has been no definitive test for it.

But, in 2012, the first blood test for the disease became available to help more patients arrive at an accurate, objective diagnosis.

Dr. Frederick Behm, the Frances B. Geever Professor and head of pathology in the UIC College of Medicine, partnered with Dr. Bruce Gillis, CEO of EpicGenetics, to develop a test for fibromyalgia called the FM/a test. The test looks for protein and blood cell biomarkers in the blood and was developed based on findings from a clinical study led by Behm at UIC.

Several thousand people have taken the FM/a test since it has been available. Now, Behm and Gillis, together with colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, will look for genetic markers in the blood of patients who tested positive for fibromyalgia using the FM/a test. Behm will lead the genetic sequencing efforts at UIC.

The group hopes to enroll several thousand people in the study who test positive for fibromyalgia through the FM/a test, and compare their genetic sequences to those without fibromyalgia.

“As more and more patients take the test, we will have more samples to interrogate for genetic markers that may help us zero in on the cause and ultimately an effective treatment, for this debilitating disease,” Behm said.

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