Written by sciencedaily.com Friday, 12 November 2010 14:23
While it has become clear in recent years that susceptibility to pain has a strong inherited component, very little is known about actual “pain genes” and how they work. In the November 12th issue of Cell, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and their collaborators report on a novel human pain gene. People with minor variations in this gene showed clear differences in susceptibility to acute heat pain and chronic back pain. Corroborating mouse studies give some clues as to how the gene controls pain sensitivity. The gene was uncovered in a genome-wide hunt for pain genes in fruit flies, which revealed hundreds of other candidate pain genes that await further study.
Understanding the genetic basis of pain will lead to the development of new analgesics, the identification of risk factors for chronic pain and improved decision-making about the suitability of surgical treatment for different patients, says Clifford Woolf, MB, BCh, PhD, the study’s senior co-author and director of the F.M. Kirby Center and Program in Neurobiology at Children’s.
Classic studies of twins indicate that about 50 percent of variance in pain sensitivity is inherited.
“Across a number of different kinds of pain, genes seem to be at least half the driver of how much pain you experience,” Woolf said. “Genes give us an amazing and powerful tool to begin to understand how pain is generated, and which functional pathways and specific proteins are involved.”