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No-pain gene discovered

Genetic culprit for inability to perceive pain could lead to new treatments for chronic pain

11:00am, May 25, 2015
pain path

HOW IT HURTS  Rare mutations in the gene PRDM12 prevent proper development of pain-sensing fibers that carry pain signals from the skin to the brain, rendering people impervious to pain, a new study suggests. 

Mutations in a previously unscrutinized gene can leave people dangerously indifferent to harm, researchers report May 25 in Nature Genetics.

Certain changes to this gene, PRDM12, rob people of the ability to feel pain, leading to unintentional injuries such as scarred tongues, scratched corneas and missing digits. A deeper understanding of how pain is blocked in these rare cases could ultimately lead to better treatments for people who suffer from pain.

“It’s promising, but there’s a long way to go,” says neuroscientist Simon Halegoua of Stony Brook University in New York.  

Scientists already knew that mutations in another gene, SCN9A, can cause congenital insensitivity to pain (SN: 6/30/12, p. 22). In the new study, Geoff Woods of the University of Cambridge in England and colleagues

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