I found a good review of current research about fibromyalgia (see Sluka & Clauw in the library). I’m still reading it but was struck by something that I had (perhaps stupidly) not considered before: Animal testing for fibromyalgia research. I work at a university hospital where research is one of the key elements of the facility, and it never occurred to me that anyone had ever done animal testing for fibroymalgia. After all, how did they find an animal that would be prone to fibromyalgia? They didn’t. They created a fibromyalgia model in the animal.
Without getting into the ethics of animal testing (which I will say has saved millions of lives with breakthroughs that started in the animal lab – and yes, I am fiercely opposed to animal testing for frivolous things like makeup and perfume…), I will say that researchers are able to create “widespread hyperalgesia of the skin, muscle and viscera without observable tissue damage or inflammation,” in other words make the poor critter hurt like heck without any obvious injury. When they create these conditions for the animal, 50% to 60% of the affected animals begin to display anxiety and depression. They are also able to reproduce the fatigue that goes along with the chronic pain and psychological symptoms. Of course, they note that in “the fatigue-induced pain models female mice have greater, more widespread, and longer lasting hyperalgesia when compared to male mice.” Yep, the lady mice hurt more, over greater body area, and for a longer period of time than the men mice. While fibro is not a female condition, there is a greater number of women with the diagnosis than men, so I think they have managed to reproduce fibromyalgia in an animal population pretty well.
Questions are trying really hard to get through today’s brain fog here. I figure, if researchers can reproduce fibromyalgia, isn’t that a step closer to understanding it? If they had no clue how to make a critter hurt without actually creating an injury, then they would be that much farther away from figuring this whole thing out, wouldn’t they? Also, this reinforces what I already knew – the medical community is taking fibromyalgia seriously. I know how difficult it is to get permission to do animal testing, at least in a university hospital setting. Researchers have to climb through hoops backwards and then spit while doing a chicken dance before they just get permission, and then the continuing requirements and regulation that accompany the actual testing are exhaustive. If they are doing animal testing to see what helps relieve the symptoms that they are able to recreate, they are taking fibromyalgia well out of the “it’s all in your head” realm and into science. Thank you dear researchers, and to you poor critters suffering on our behalf, I salute you.