71-year-old Jo Cameron has never once needed painkillers. Not after typically painful surgeries or anything. The Scottish woman can even eat Scotch bonnet chilis without a sign of discomfort.
Cameron thought little of her lack of pain until she saw doctors for a hip problem six years ago. The doctors were baffled to discover that the senior experiences no pain despite the severe condition of her joint. One year later, she had a procedure on her hand for osteoarthritis and experienced no pain.
Wanting to learn more, her doctors analyzed her lack of sensitivity, thinking it was due to genetics. They found the phenomenon derived from a mutation in a previously unidentified gene.
Cameron says she had no idea until she took the tests a few years ago that something was amiss. She just thought it was normal.
Painkillers Could Improve with Study on Pain Tolerant Humans
A case published this past Thursday explains how this discovery could aid in finding new treatments for various conditions. Anything from post-operative pain to even anxiety.
The co-lead author of the study, Dr. Devjit Srivastava, says that the possible findings from this study are staggering. Srivastava works at a hospital in northern Scotland specializing in pain medicine and anesthesia.
According to Dr. Srivastava, about half of the patients undergoing surgery still experience some pain despite the advancements in painkiller meds.
The findings of this study with Cameron could point towards amazing new painkiller discoveries and perhaps even speed up healing for wounds. This further information could help a lot of patients across the globe tremendously.
A Day in the Life of Cameron
Cameron mentioned she has a history of receiving painless injuries. At times, she hasn’t been aware of burning herself until she smells the burnt flesh.
Research also found that Cameron’s optimism was off the charts being the lowest score on a basic anxiety scale. According to the woman, she has never panicked, even in dangerous situations such as a recent traffic incident.
It’s possible there are others with this mutation as well, given that Cameron was unaware of this herself until her mid-60s.
Those with this rare insensitivity to pain can have great value to medical research. Learning how their genetic mutation impacts their inability to feel pain is an essential step in this study. Senior lecturer at Univerity College in London, James Cox, urges anyone who doesn’t experience pain to come forward for the study.
The Genes Responsible
Through the study, researchers found two crucial mutations in Cameron’s genes. One in the FAAH gene and one in what is called the FAAH-OUT, a gene that had little to no previous studies.
Professionals have called this research crucial in understanding various aspects of the human body. This information can help us learn more about the FAAH-OUT gene and potentially a new and more effective way of creating painkillers.
It’s important to take notes from those who experience pain, but also to those who are less sensitive to the unpleasant sensation.
As for the trait being hereditary, both Cameron’s daughter and mother seemed to have normal pain perceptions. However, her since-deceased father had little need for painkillers. Her son reports having some level of pain insensitivity, but not to the extent of his mother.
Cameron takes no medication and is very active and fit. The only medical condition she can claim is arthritis.
Cameron says she is hopeful research into her mutation could help those around the world who are currently suffering.