Doctors in Scotland recently came across a woman who apparently doesn't feel any pain.
After scientists analyzed her genome, they concluded that she had a gene mutation that makes everything from bumping into furniture to getting surgery totally painless.
The woman didn't realize she was different until her mid-sixties, when doctors noticed she didn't feel pain after medical issues and surgeries that should have been very painful. The woman also reported she'd never needed painkillers, and often didn't notice getting cuts or burns.
She reported never feeling fear or anxiety, and said that her wounds always healed quickly. Her mutation has to do with the fatty acid amide hydrolase gene--also known as the FAAH gene. This is gene is implicated in pain sensation, mood and memory.
Mice that don't have this gene feel less pain anxiety, and their wounds heal faster. This woman's mutation is in a gene that is apparently related, and named FAAH-OUT, which researchers previously thought didn't do much of anything.
Now it seems that it affects expression of the FAAH gene, and studying it can help scientists develop better ways to treat pain, anxiety, and even help wounds heal. It's very possible that there are more people out there with this mutation who don't realize.
Sources and Further Reading
- Diamond, C. The woman who doesn't feel pain. BBC.com, March 28, 2019.
- Habib, A. M., et al. (2019). Microdeletion in a FAAHpseudogene identified in a patient with high anandamide concentrations and pain insensitivity. British Journal of Anaesthesia.