Discovery of pain-sensing gene may lead to new pain relief

Researchers found the gene that produces neurons allowing humans to feel pain was blocked in some subjects of the study, leading them to find out how and why it happens.

By Stephen Feller

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 25 (UPI) -- Researchers have discovered a gene that is essential to the way humans process pain, which may lead to new and improved methods of pain relief.

A study at the University of Cambridge used genome mapping to compare the genetic makeup of 11 families with congenital insensitivity to pain, a genetically inherited condition that inhibits the person from feeling pain.


"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," Professor Geoff Woods, of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research at the University of Cambridge, said in a press release. "Both are equally important to the development of new pain treatments – if we know the mechanisms that underlie pain sensation, we can then potentially control and reduce unnecessary pain."

The gene is the fifth discovered by scientists that plays a role in the body's ability to feel pain. And like two of the previous four, scientists hope its discovery will lead to the development of better painkillers.

The study was published in Nature Genetics.


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