Chronic pain impacts over 100 million people in the United States. The most common form of pain management in the United States are opiate-based medications. Thanks to a new discovery, pain management in the future will be better.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered the gene that is responsible for sensing pain. The gene PRDM12 was studied in patients who had the rare medical condition known as congenital insensitivity to pain. Patients who suffer from this condition are unable to feel pain. By studying this gene in patients who can't feel pain, researchers were able to find what parts of gene PRDM12 were not active. It was their belief that the blocking of the pain-sensing neurons occurred while the embryo was developing.
To test their hypothesis, researchers used a combination of various animal models along with human induced pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are cells that can be grown into almost any cell in the human body. The research showed that all the genetic variants of PRDM12 in the CIP patients blocked the gene's function. Co-leader of this study, Professor Geoff Woods from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, commented on this study.
"The ability to sense pain is essential to our self-preservation, yet we understand far more about excessive pain than we do about lack of pain perception. Both are equally important to the development of new pain treatments – if we know the mechanisms that underlie pain sensation, we can then potentially control and reduce unnecessary pain."
"We are very hopeful that this new gene could be an excellent candidate for drug development, particularly given recent successes with drugs targeting chromatin regulators in human disease. This could potentially benefit those who are at danger from lack of pain perception and help in the development of new treatments for pain relief."
[Image via Scientificamerican.com]