Stress intolerance in patients with chronic widespread pain: are epigenetic mechanisms the answer to the mystery?

Project Details


Patients with chronic widespread pain (CWP) frequently experience
stress intolerance - an exacerbation of symptoms in response to
stress. Although it severely affects their quality of life, stress
intolerance remains a mystery. Hence, unravelling the mechanisms
underlying stress intolerance is crucial to understand CWP
pathophysiology and to develop novel treatments. Epigenetic
mechanisms hold the potential to provide an answer as they have
been found to be altered in patients with CWP at baseline, and in
response to stress. However, research on epigenetic mechanisms in
CWP is very scarce. Hence, my project aims to address this
knowledge gap by assessing stress-induced epigenetic changes in
patients with CWP. DNA methylation will be assessed at baseline and
in response to stress on three target genes encoding for the enzymes
catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and monoamine oxidase A
and B (MAO-A/B) via a randomised cross-over study. The regulatory
role of DNA methylation will be researched in relation to COMT,
MAO-A and MAO-B activity, neurophysiological measures, and
stress-induced symptom changes in patients with CWP. Epigenetic
mechanisms not only improve our understanding of stress and pain
pathophysiology, but are also targetable processes and thus provide
the substrate to develop innovative treatments. My project will be the
largest on targeted DNA methylation in patients with CWP and the
only one linking this to stress intolerance and neurophysiological
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/23

Flemish discipline codes

  • Epigenetics
  • Neurological and neuromuscular diseases
  • Neurophysiology


  • Stress intolerance
  • Chronic widespread pain
  • Epigenetics