Feeling physical pain is essential to survival. However, there are people on the planet who do not feel pain. Scientists are trying to understand why this is happening.
Congenital insensitivity to pain is a rare condition, but it occurs all over the planet. According to experts, about a million people are not able to feel physical pain, and this deviation brings a lot of problems to a person. First of all, children who do not yet know how to control their body suffer: they can bite off a piece of their tongue and not notice it. People with this disorder are more likely to break bones. They also cannot consult a doctor in time, both in case of injury and with the usual pain signal of a sick organism.
Over the years of research, scientists have established that pain insensitivity is the result of genetic disorders. The genes SCN9A, PRDM12 and others, having mutated, block the transmission of electrical signals along the nerves. Sometimes naloxone and other opioid antagonists may help people who do not feel pain, but a universal treatment has not yet been developed. Research into this phenomenon continues. The most famous “patients” live in the village of Vittangi in northern Sweden, with over 40 cases. It is obvious that the mutated gene (in this case, NGFß) is inherited.
Recently, geneticists have studied hereditary insensitivity to pain using the example of the Italian family Marsilis (Marsilis). All six people – a 78-year-old woman, her two daughters and three grandchildren – experience subtle discomfort instead of pain. X-rays showed that they all have many fractures that were not even suspected. Based on the results of studying the genomes, a mutation was found in the ZFHX2 gene. ZFHX2 controls 16 other genes, some of which are responsible for the perception of pain. To test the mechanism of its work, geneticists performed a series of experiments on mice, modifying the ZFHX2 mutation.
Scientists hope that they will be able to find ways of treatment for all people with such a deviation. In addition, further research in this area will lead to the creation of effective and safe pain relievers.