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article imageNew painkillers to be patterned after girl who doesn’t feel pain

By Maria Elisa Anacay     Sep 16, 2013 in Health
In a perfect world, one painkiller would be enough to alleviate the hurt. Unfortunately, painkillers could take time before they take effect. Today, this could all change as medical experts are looking for ways to increase the potency of painkillers.
Germany-based Jena University Hospital’s Dr. Ingo Kurth and his colleagues are breaking new ground as they explore a gene mutation that significantly affects pain perception, NewScientist reports. The data, derived from a girl with congenital analgesia, could be the breakthrough the medical industry needs to stop pain once and for all.
Congenital insensitivity to pain or congenital analgesia is a rare condition in which patients are unable to feel physical pain but are able to feel touch. Patients suffering from the condition could significantly hurt themselves as they cannot feel injuries such as sprained or fractured bones and scalding temperatures.
By comparing the genetic make-up of the girl with those of her parents (who do not have the condition), the German team was able to isolate mutation in gene SCN11A. The gene influences nerve-impulses sent to the brain that triggers pain. The mutation results to an overactivity wherein the gene blocks the impulses from being sent, which numbs the body from pain.
To strengthen their findings, the team introduced the mutated gene to a set of mice. They determined that 11% of the subjects sustained skin wounds and bone fractures, injuries that are common among people with congenital analgesia. The experiment proved that the mutated SCN11A gene could therefore significantly block pain signals.
The findings led the team to explore painkillers that would display results similar to those of the mutated gene.
‘A cracking paper and great science’
Professor Geoffrey Woods told New Scientist that Kurth’s findings are “a cracking paper, and great science.” The Daily Mail UK adds that “new painkillers could block this [SCN11A] channel.”
Should the new painkiller be developed, patients in the future (particularly those with chronic conditions) will no longer have to live in pain. Instead, the painkillers would be able to effectively eradicate their pain.
Dr. Kurth’s paper is available here.
More about Painkillers, Medical journal, scientific breakthrough, congenital anesthesia, Gene SCN11A
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