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Molecular Pain

, 8:12

First Online: 12 February 2012Received: 25 August 2011Accepted: 12 February 2012


BackgroundChronic pain conditions are characterized by significant individual variability complicating the identification of pathophysiological markers. Leukocyte telomere length TL, a measure of cellular aging, is associated with age-related disease onset, psychosocial stress, and health-related functional decline. Psychosocial stress has been associated with the onset of chronic pain and chronic pain is experienced as a physical and psychosocial stressor. However, the utility of TL as a biological marker reflecting the burden of chronic pain and psychosocial stress has not yet been explored.

FindingsThe relationship between chronic pain, stress, and TL was analyzed in 36 ethnically diverse, older adults, half of whom reported no chronic pain and the other half had chronic knee osteoarthritis OA pain. Subjects completed a physical exam, radiographs, health history, and psychosocial questionnaires. Blood samples were collected and TL was measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction qPCR. Four groups were identified characterized by pain status and the Perceived Stress Scale scores: 1 no pain-low stress, 2 no pain-high stress, chronic pain-low stress, and 4 chronic pain-high stress. TL differed between the pain-stress groups p = 0.01, controlling for relevant covariates. Specifically, the chronic pain-high stress group had significantly shorter TL compared to the no pain-low stress group. Age was negatively correlated with TL, particularly in the chronic pain-high stress group p = 0.03.

ConclusionsAlthough preliminary in nature and based on a modest sample size, these findings indicate that cellular aging may be more pronounced in older adults experiencing high levels of perceived stress and chronic pain.

KeywordsChronic pain Perceived stress Knee osteoarthritis Telomere length Cellular aging AbbreviationsCES-DCenter for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale

CPHSChronic pain-high stress

CPLSChronic pain-low stress

GCPSGraded Chronic Pain Scale

NPHSNo pain-high stress

NPLSNo pain-low stress


PBMCPeripheral blood mononuclear cells

PSSPerceived Stress Scale

TLTelomere length

T-STelomere to single copy gene

UFUniversity of Florida

WHRWaist hip ratio.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1744-8069-8-12 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Kimberly T Sibille - Taimour Langaee - Ben Burkley - Yan Gong - Toni L Glover - Chris King - Joseph L RileyIII - Christi


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