Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gene that Regulates Pain

I've often wondered about people's pain threshold and why some people seem to experience more pain than others.  New research reported in the Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, shows that a rare mutation in a gene (SNC9A) that encodes a protein in a type of sodium channel is associated with disorders of either excessive pain or insensitivity to pain.  Those with a rare allele that is found in about 10% of patients had a single nucleotide polymorphism that caused the patients to report higher pain than those without the allele.

(A single nucleotide polymorphism is a DNA sequence variation that can create a copying error for proteins that change how a gene works and can be the site of certain disease processes)

Researchers found that pain scores from patients with sciatica and phantom limb pain were higher if they had the rare allele and even healthy women were more likely to have lower pain thresholds if they had the mutation.  Additional experiments showed that inactivation of sodium channels is slower in cells with the rare allele.

Pain is subjective and often difficult to treat.  Developing drugs that target the sodium channels might be useful in treating pain.

16 comments:

KM said...

Is phantom limb pain from amputations? Can a stroke patient get it after being paralyzed on one side that
affected limbs?

Toni Brayer, MD said...

KM: Phantom limb pain usually occurs after amputation but it has been reported afer a stroke. That is not as common.

DBenzil said...

I deal with a lot of patients with pain and am always been very intrigued by the huge variation and also the interaction between physical and non-physical (I don't like to call them emotional or psychological) components. Thanks for bringing this intriguing article to my attention

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