Pain Threshold Lies in the Genes
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11, March 2010
Ever wondered why some people feel more pain than others from minor injuries? Well, that is because of a gene, scientists have found.
Scientists at Cambridge University have discovered the ‘pain gene’ known as SCN9A – which was found to make some people more sensitive to and thus less able to tolerate pain.
According to the researchers, their findings could pave the way for new gene therapy in future to treat patients with chronic pain. Dr Geoffrey Woods, who led the study, said that finding a gene responsible for pain could greatly increase the ability to conquer and control it.
The scientists found the gene in patients with sciatica, phantom pain, back problems and pancreatitis. A subsequent analysis of 186 healthy women showed that those with the gene had enhanced pain sensations.
The researchers found the protein made by the mutated version of the gene SCN9A stays open longer than the normal one and this, they believe, increases the activation of nerves that produce sensations of dull, aching pain.
Millions of people worldwide suffer with chronic pain, as a result of injury or arthritis, which affects every aspect of their lives, and often results in depression.
The researchers said the drugs which can modify the protein’s activity could prove effective painkillers and their study could also help explain some of the genetic reasons behind why patients respond differently to different classes of painkillers.
“As individuals appear to have differing genetic susceptibilities to pain, future studies should be directed toward understanding whether responsiveness to different classes of analgesics is also genetically determined”, Woods said.