Woman Feels No Pain, Thanks to Her Genes

Jo Cameron only realised she wasn't normal in her sixties

A 71-year-old woman who has lived her life with nearly no physical pain or anxiety thanks to a genetic mutation could revolutionise medicine.

As part of her mutation, Cameron has a "microdeletion", which prevents that control from working normally.

"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", he said.

The first mutation lessened the activity of a gene called FAAH, which is central to regulating pain sensation, mood and memory.

Researchers had assumed the pseudogene was a "junk" non-functioning gene but have now realized it likely controls how the FAAH gene works.

The genetic analysis for Cameron reveals that she had two notable mutations in a gene.

Mice without the FAAH gene have reduced pain sensation, enhanced wound healing, and lower levels of anxiety and fear, the researchers noted.

Researchers from the University College London and Oxford University also discovered that, due to a genetic mutation, a 66-year-old woman's wounds healed significantly faster than normal. "There was significant deformity and deterioration in the use of the right thumb", according to the report, yet to her, it was "painless".

She lived a long life of painlessness before realising something unusual was happening, reporting dental surgeries without anaesthesia, painless cuts and broken bones, and even burns in which it took smelling her charred flesh to notice something was amiss.

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Doctors at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, found her hip to be severely arthritic and in need of replacing. Sometimes, she accidentally leans on her stove, only to notice when she smells burning flesh.

The researchers note that Cameron is "talkative and happy with an optimistic outlook" and, furthermore, when she took a psychological questionnaire created to rate levels of anxiety, she received the lowest score. (PA) The pensioner also reported memory lapses throughout life such as forgetting words or keys.

And it was yet another reminder that we need less addictive alternatives for chronic pain, said Dr. Stephen G. Waxman, a neurologist at Yale and the author of "Chasing Men on Fire: The Story of the Search for a Pain Gene".

"One out of two patients after surgery today still experiences moderate to severe pain, despite all advances in painkiller medications", he added.

"Learning about it now fascinates me as much as it does anyone else", says Cameron, who is glad that her genetic makeup could help further clinical research.

A paper about Cameron's condition was published Thursday in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Researchers say the discovery could help shine a light on the role of genetics in pain management - and believe there could be more people out there with the same mutation. How Cameron developed such a genetic mutation is still a mystery, but doctors do urge people who might have the same mutation to come forward for research.

"The implications for these findings are enormous", said Dr. Devjit Srivastava, the co-lead author of the study and a consultant in anesthesia and pain medicine at a public hospital in the north of Scotland. "We hope this could help the 330 million patients who undergo surgery globally every year", Dr Srivastava said.

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