Scientists make women feel pain for the first time in their lives
We at Mega Curioso have already talked about a story about a woman who doesn't feel pain. You can read the full article by visiting this link, but basically, she suffers from an extremely rare condition called congenital analgesia, which makes her physically insensitive to pain.
As we explained in the article, the problem affects only about 50 people worldwide, and while it may seem very beneficial to live without pain, being oblivious to it can be incredibly dangerous. To give you an idea, little children born with the condition often bite their lips or fingers to bleed, and it is common for young and old to severely bruise or break bones without realizing it.
Lack of pain
According to Jessica Hamzelou of the New Scientist portal, congenital analgesia is the result of a rare genetic mutation that makes nerve cells unable to transmit pain stimuli to the brain. More precisely, the problem is caused by the lack of ion channels called Nav1.7, which appear in large quantities in two types of spinal cord neurons and are in charge of transporting sodium through the sensory nerves.
Based on this knowledge, scientists began to look for ways to block the Nav1.7 ion channels and thus treat chronic pain. However, midway, while a group of researchers were studying genetically engineered lab mice not to have such channels, they noticed something peculiar.
Although animals lacked the Nav.1.7 channels, their bodies produced substances known as opioid peptides - which function as natural painkillers - in much larger quantities than normal.
Thus, given that humans also produce these compounds, scientists concluded that the same could happen to people with congenital analgesia - and that the excess of these peptides in their bodies could be the reason why they do not feel pain.
According to Jessica, there is a drug called naloxone that blocks opioid receptors. This drug is usually given in cases of poisoning or overdose with opium-derived substances, such as morphine and heroin, and scientists decided to apply the drug to mice to see if they could make them feel pain.
The strategy worked, and the same drug was given to a patient - who is not the same one we talked about in our case - with congenital analgesia. The researchers then burned the woman's skin with a laser, and for the first time in her life she was able to sense the sensation of pain. In fact, they said, instead of being traumatic, the patient even enjoyed the experience!
In addition, returning to the mouse experiments, the researchers found that when administering drugs to block ion channels in combination with naloxone, animals that had not been genetically altered would no longer feel pain.
According to Jessica, scientists will need to conduct more tests before naloxone is indicated for the treatment of congenital analgesia in humans, as no one knows what the effects of continued use of the drug could be. However, the results are promising, and researchers may also have discovered a new way to treat chronic pain.
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