The woman suffers from a mutation in a previously unidentified gene, which gives her the ability to feel no pain, reduced anxiety, and quicker healing
Genetic mutations resulting in superhuman abilities are often depicted in science fiction movies and novels. In reality, however, such occurrences are very rare, which is why doctors were dumbfounded, when they found that a 65 year old woman, who had serious joint degeneration, said that she experienced no pain whatsoever. When the doctors inquired further about the women’s life, she stated that she has never had the ability to feel pain. She would only learn of the cuts, bruises, and burns on her body, much later than they were inflicted, and at times she would only sense burn wounds when the smell of burning flesh reached her, prompting doctors to discern the cause for her mutation.
"We found this woman has a particular genotype that reduces activity of a gene already considered to be a possible target for pain and anxiety treatments," said Dr James Cox, one of the study's lead researchers.
Genetic analysis revealed a micro-deletion in a hitherto unknown pseudogene, which the doctors have now dubbed FAAH-OUT. They also found a mutation in the neighboring gene, which also has a role to play in the production of the FAAH (Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase) enzyme. The research, carried out by a group of researchers from the University College London, states that the findings could play an important role in establishing new treatments, for multiple conditions.
Lab mice without the FAAH gene, also demonstrated a lowered ability to feel pain, lesser anxiety and fear, and accelerated wound healing. Suggesting that the group of genes, previously thought to be of no significant use, could play a significant role in devising future treatment methods.
"We hope that with time, our findings might contribute to clinical research for post-operative pain and anxiety, and potentially chronic pain, PTSD and wound healing, perhaps involving gene therapy techniques," said Dr Cox, in the findings published in British Journal of Anesthesia, on February 19, 2-19.
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