Genetic mutation could lead to new pain treatments

March 28, 2019

Doctors have identified a new mutation in a previously unknown gene which scientists believe must play a major role in pain signaling, mood and memory — boosting hopes of new treatments for chronic pain.

A 71 year old Scottish woman has experienced broken limbs, cuts and burns, childbirth and numerous surgical operations with little or no need for pain relief.

In a report published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, pain specialists as UCL London describe how they found two notable mutations in the patient's DNA. Together, the mutations suppress pain and anxiety, while boosting happiness and wound healing.

The first mutation found is common in the general population. It dampens down the activity of a gene called FAAH. The second mutation involved a missing chunk of DNA. Further analysis showed that the “deletion” chopped the front off a nearby, previously unknown gene the scientists named FAAH-OUT. The researchers think this new gene works like a volume control on the FAAH gene.

Scientists are hopeful that understanding how the new gene works could lead to gene therapies that mimic the effects seen in the patient.

Read the Guardian article