Scientists have identified an enigmatic genetic mutation, which is effective in negating the sensation of pain. The gene variant was recently identified in the Marsili family from Italy, for whom stubbed toes, burns, or even broken bones are a painless experience. In fact, physical pain is something they don’t feel at all. This gives researchers a hope that they can develop more effective painkillers.
None in the six-member Italian family feels the sensation of pain and most of their injuries go unnoticed until they visit a doctor. During the observation, even fractures were discovered which they were unaware of. The entire family has lived with this condition for years. The specific condition may seem a blessing, but it isn’t.
Finding the cause
A series of tests were performed on the family to unearth the cause of their inability to feel physical pain. Dr. James Cox, a geneticist from the University College London (UCL) and one of the co-authors of the study, and his team discovered that the number of nerves in the skin of each individual was normal, but what they had was a mutation in a gene called ZFHX2. The role of this gene is to determine how the nerves interpret the pain signals before being relayed to our brains via other genes. The findings of the study have been published in the journal Brain.
The researchers also carried out tests on mice to investigate their findings. For this, they altered the mice with the same mutated version of the gene. They found that the mice experienced pain in very much the same fashion as the Marsili family does.
The research not only helped unearth the answer for a medical mystery, but it could also pave the way for breakthroughs in bringing chronic pain in control and limit the suffering of countless people. What the team of researchers hopes to do is work out the actual role of the genes in reducing the sensation of pain. Having done that, there is a possibility to develop drugs, which would achieve the same results or to even come up with a way to reverse the pain insensitivity of the family.
Americans are in pain
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), chronic pain affects more people in the United States than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined. The AAPM reports that about 100 million people are living with chronic pain in the country. When it comes to taking medication for relieving chronic pain, the risk of drug abuse and getting addicted to it is quite high.
About 21 to 29 percent of patients with chronic pain tend to abuse prescription opioids. Studies show that prescription opioid abuse can lead to the use of heroin and other harmful drugs due to their easy availability. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2016 drug overdoses contributed to nearly 63,600 deaths, with opioids responsible for almost two-thirds of them.
However, addiction to prescription drugs can be treated with timely medical intervention. If you know someone with addiction to any prescription medication, encourage him/her to seek professional help. Contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline for information about the best treatment center in your vicinity. Our representatives can connect you to one of the renowned prescription drug rehab centers that offers evidence-based treatment for addiction. To find a prescription drug abuse treatment clinic near you, chat online with our expert or dial our 24/7 helpline number (866) 450-1557.