The mystery of a woman who doesn’t feel pain: Scientists dive deeper

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Who is Jo Cameron?

Imagine if you could touch a hot stove or trip and scrape your knee but not feel any pain. It sounds a bit like a superhero power, doesn’t it?

This is a reality for Jo Cameron, a woman from Scotland. She can undergo major surgeries and not feel any pain afterward!

This strange condition got the attention of scientists who wanted to figure out why this was happening.

The Discovery of Something Unique

In 2019, a group of brainy people, called geneticists, found something fascinating. They discovered a special change in Jo’s genes.

Genes are like instruction manuals for your body. They tell your body how to work and what to do. But Jo had a special gene, not found in most people, that they named FAAH-OUT.

FAAH-OUT is located in a part of our DNA that scientists used to think was “junk” – parts that didn’t really do anything important.

But, surprise! FAAH-OUT was doing something very important for Jo. It was controlling another gene called FAAH. This FAAH gene is like a manager in our bodies, helping control feelings of pain, mood, and memory.

Diving Deeper: The Recent Research

Recently, the same scientists at a university called UCL, decided to dig deeper. They wanted to know how FAAH-OUT worked and why it made Jo feel no pain.

If they could understand this, maybe they could create new medicines to help people feel less pain, too!

In their lab, the scientists did a bunch of cool experiments. They used a super-advanced tool called CRISPR-Cas9.

This is like a tiny pair of scissors that can cut and change genes. They used it to see what would happen if they made other genes work like Jo’s FAAH-OUT gene.

The Findings: What did the Scientists Learn?

Guess what they found? FAAH-OUT works like a volume control for the FAAH gene. When the special change or “mutation” that Jo has is present, it turns the volume of FAAH way down.

This means less activity from the FAAH gene, leading to Jo feeling less pain, being happier, and remembering things better.

But that’s not all! They also found that Jo’s special mutation didn’t just turn down FAAH. It turned up some other genes and turned down some more.

All these genes have different jobs. Some are in charge of healing wounds and some control our moods. It was like Jo’s mutation was controlling a whole orchestra of genes!

For example, a gene involved in healing wounds, called WNT16, was more active in Jo. This might explain why Jo heals quickly after an injury.

Then there were two other important genes, BDNF and ACKR3. Changes in these genes could be the reason why Jo is rarely anxious or afraid, and doesn’t feel much pain.

So What Now? How Can We Use this Information?

Dr. Andrei Okorokov, one of the smart scientists working on this study, said that understanding why Jo doesn’t feel pain could help us in lots of ways.

It could give us ideas on how to help wounds heal faster or help people feel less sad.

Professor James Cox, another scientist on the team, was also excited.

He said that understanding what is happening inside Jo’s body could help them create new medicines. These could help lots of people feel less pain.

Learning about the special gene in Jo’s body is like opening a new book full of information. Scientists will keep studying and learning from it.

Someday, their discoveries could help many people around the world to feel less pain. Isn’t it amazing what we can learn from just one person’s genes?

If you care about pain, please read studies that common painkiller may strongly affect your liver health, and cannabis may raise death risk in people with high blood pressure.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about why cholesterol-lowering drug statins can cause muscle pain, and results showing a new way to reduce back pain without drugs.

The study was published in Brain.

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