Scottish Woman Feels No Pain, Also Has Little Anxiety or Fear, May Have Faster Wound Healing; Scientists ID Associated Novel Mutation in Pseudogene (FAAH-OUT) & Mutation in FAAH Gene; Implications of Findings Are “Immense”

A 71-year-old Scottish woman (Jo Cameron) (photo) can feel virtually no pain due to a mutation in a previously-unidentified gene, according to a research paper co-led by researchuers at University College London (UCL). She also experiences very little anxiety and fear, and may have enhanced wound healing due to the mutation, which the researchers say could help guide new treatments for a range of conditions, they report in the British Journal of Anaesthesia. The open-access article is titled “Microdeletion in a FAAH Pseudogene Identified In A Patient With High Anandamide Concentrations And Pain Insensitivity.” “We found this woman has a particular genotype that reduces activity of a gene already considered to be a possible target for pain and anxiety treatments,” said one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr James Cox (UCL Medicine). “Now that we are uncovering how this newly-identified gene works, we hope to make further progress on new treatment targets.” At age 65, the woman sought treatment for an issue with her hip, which turned out to involve severe joint degeneration despite her experiencing no pain. At age 66, she underwent surgery on her hand, which is normally very painful, and yet she reported no pain after the surgery. Her pain insensitivity was diagnosed by Dr Devjit Srivastava, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine at an NHS hospital in the north of Scotland and co-lead author of the paper. The woman tells researchers she has never needed painkillers after surgery such as dental procedures. She was referred to pain geneticists at UCL and the University of Oxford, who conducted genetic analyses and found two notable mutations. One was a microdeletion in a pseudogene, previously only briefly annotated in medical literature, which the researchers have described for the first time and dubbed FAAH-OUT.
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