Lipid signatures of chronic pain in female adolescents with and without obesity


Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Advocate Aurora Research Institute


Background: Chronic pain in adolescence is associated with diminished outcomes, lower socioeconomic status in later life, and decreased family well-being. Approximately one third of adolescents with chronic pain have obesity compared to the general population. In obesity, lipid signals regulate insulin sensitivity, satiety, and pain sensation. We determined whether there is a distinct lipid signature associated with chronic pain and its co-occurrence with obesity in adolescents.

Methods: We performed global lipidomics in serum samples from female adolescents (N = 67, 13-17 years old) with no pain/healthy weight (Controls), chronic pain/healthy weight (Pain Non-obese), no pain/obesity (Obese), or chronic pain/obesity (Pain Obese).

Results: The Pain Non-obese group had lipid profiles similar to the Obese and Pain Obese groups. The major difference in these lipids included decreased lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI), lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC), and lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) in the three clinical groups compared to the Control group. Furthermore, ceramides and sphingomyelin were higher in the groups with obesity when compared to the groups with healthy weight, while plasmalogens were elevated in the Pain Obese group only.

Conclusions: Serum lipid markers are associated with chronic pain and suggest that specific lipid metabolites may be a signaling mechanism for inflammation associated with co-occurring chronic pain and obesity.

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