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Science & Technology

Woman with genetic mutation doesn't feel pain

March 30, 2019 | Comment icon 3 comments

An immunity to pain can be a blessing and a curse. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 D. Sharon Pruitt
Jo Cameron didn't realize that her insensitivity to pain was anything unusual until she was 60 years old.
While an inability to feel pain may seem like a godsend, it's a sensation that we rely on to tell us that something is wrong. Without it, you can be seriously ill or wounded and not even realize it.

Cameron, who is now 71, had no idea that her immunity to pain was abnormal until she underwent a routine hand operation and doctors noted that she did not seem to experience any discomfort.

"Looking back, I realise I hadn't needed painkillers, but if you don't need them you don't question why you don't," she said. "You are what you are, until someone points it out you don't question it. I was just a happy soul who didn't realize there was anything different about me."

Throughout her life, Cameron had experienced instances of injury that did not hurt at all. As a child, she broke her arm and didn't realize it until it started to set at a strange angle. Later in life, she only realized that she was burning her hand on a stove when she started to smell burning flesh.
She even described the sensation of childbirth as "quite enjoyable".

A genetic analysis later discovered two notable mutations responsible for her condition. In addition to her immunity to pain and anxiety, she also heals faster and experiences increased happiness.

Scientists are now hoping to harness the same mutation to help those suffering from chronic pain.

"People with rare insensitivity to pain can be valuable to medical research as we learn how their genetic mutations impact how they experience pain," said researcher James Cox.

"We would encourage anyone who does not experience pain to come forward."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (3)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Susanc241 3 years ago
The part that really interests me is her lack of reaction to adrenaline.  As someone who is awash with it and the ensuing anxiety I would love them to find a way to truly dampen its effects.  The lack of pain is more worrying as you don’t know when you have damaged yourself.  Imagine carrying on walking on a broken ankle.
Comment icon #2 Posted by childofindigo 3 years ago
Dito for me also would love to be free of anxiety and chronic pain when I have it, would be a lot easier on all the other organs that painkillers affect!
Comment icon #3 Posted by DanL 3 years ago
There is no real adrenaline rush if there is no pain or fear. Just as there is very little reaction when you are anesthetized. The big problem with not feeling pain is that people can go into septicemia without knowing that the infection is really all that bad. This is what happens to people with diabetes with their feet and is part of the reason people with leprosy lose fingers and toes. Pain is your warning when something needs attention. Without it, small problems can become life-threatening.

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