Each of us has dreamed of being able to not feel pain at least once in our lives. It would really come in handy to be able to shut pain off sometimes, especially when it doesn’t go away with the pain killers available on the market.
And even if the pain does go away with certain medication, painkillers can be dangerous to our health and have damaging side effects.
A new study led by experts at Cambridge University might have just made a discovery that will revolutionize the way other researchers will approach pain relief treatments – a gene responsible for pain.
In order to make such a discovery, the team of researchers employed genome mapping to compare the genetic material of 158 members of 11 families from all across the world. Some of them suffered from scarred skin, mutilated lips, tongue or fingers or had been wounded in various ways.
What they all had in common was a condition called congenital insensitivity to pain, which is genetically inherited and it is characterized by the person’s inability to feel pain.
Thus, the researchers identified a gene, called PRDM12, that might be at the root of congenital insensitivity to pain.
The people suffering from this condition had two variants of PRDM12, which basically prevented the gene from functioning because they suppressed the development of chromatins, that have a very important role in forming neurons. In their case , the ability of neurons to sense pain was inhibited. This explained the people’s inability to feel pain.
However, the inability to feel pain is not all fun and games. Professor Geoff Woods from the University of Cambridge said that “the ability to sense pain is essential to our self-preservation, yet we understand far more about excessive pain than we do about lack of pain perception.”
The people who are born with this condition sometimes have a shorter life span precisely because they are unable to tell when they suffer from a certain disease or when they hurt themselves. For example, they can easily get burnt or break a leg without feeling a thing. Some of their injuries could prove lethal if they are not treated on time.
This might be considered a breakthrough, as the new information could result into the creation of new more efficient painkillers. This medication will hopefully have fewer side effects than the ones that are currently available on the market.
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