Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Discover Genetic Basis For Individual Variations In Pain Perception And A Common Chronic Pain Condition

Date:
January 12, 2005
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
An age-old question is why some people seem to be able to withstand high levels of discomfort while comparable pain causes others to cry for mercy. A related question is how some people can live through major physical and psychological stresses with no apparent consequences while others develop chronic pain conditions. Now, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists, collaborating with National Institutes of Health, the University of Adelaide and Attagene Inc. researchers, say they have discovered a major part of the answers to both questions.

CHAPEL HILL -- For millions of years, pain has helped protect humans and other creatures by alerting them that a serious threat was present -- the fire was too hot, the water too cold, the rival too strong to continue fighting and so on. But uncontrolled chronic pain can also make life seem unbearable.

An age-old question is why some people seem to be able to withstand high levels of discomfort while comparable pain causes others to cry for mercy. A related question is how some people can live through major physical and psychological stresses with no apparent consequences while others develop chronic pain conditions.

Now, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists, collaborating with National Institutes of Health, the University of Adelaide and Attagene Inc. researchers, say they have discovered a major part of the answers to both questions.

The key is genetics, the scientists say. Subtle variations in certain genes can make one person highly sensitive to pain and more susceptible to developing chronic pain disorders, while other variations can be protective.

"Our findings are extremely exciting and will interest the general public and the medical community," said Dr. William Maixner, professor at UNC’s Comprehensive Center for Inflammatory Disorders and director of the UNC School of Dentistry’s Neurosensory Disorders Unit.

In their five-year study to determine the relationship between pain sensitivity and development of chronic pain, he and colleagues found that humans have a tremendous range in pain sensitivity.

"Some people are very resistant to pain like they have taken a clinical dose of morphine," Maixner said. "More importantly, people who are less sensitive to painful stimuli are protected from developing a very common and debilitating pain condition called temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). These variations in pain sensitivity are stable over time, suggesting a genetic predisposition."

By concentrating on the genetics of COMT, an enzyme that controls levels of epinephrine and other chemicals and is released in response to stress, the scientists could explain significant variations in pain sensitivity.

The experiments were led in part by Dr. Luda Diatchenko, research associate professor at the inflammatory disorders center. They involved 202 healthy women, whose COMT gene variants, pain sensitivity and risk for TMJD were analyzed. Molecular biological, cell culture and animal behavior experiments were also conducted to demonstrate the relationship between COMT activity and pain sensitivity.

"We identified three genetic variants of COMT that are highly prevalent in the human population," Diatchenko said. "This is the first demonstration that a genetic variation influences both human pain perception and the risk for developing a chronic pain condition."

"By analyzing slight differences in the gene that produces the COMT enzyme, we can predict the risk of developing TMJD, which is both common and costly and impacts more than 10 percent of the U.S. population," said Dr. Gary D. Slade, formerly a UNC clinical epidemiologist now at the University of Adelaide.

The researchers believe their discoveries will apply to conditions such as fibromyalgia syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and several other chronic sensory disorders that are also characterized by enhanced pain sensitivity and are frequently seen in patients with TMJD.

A report on the findings will appear in January in Vol. 14 of the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

"These results have broad ramifications for our understanding of pain physiology and genetics, for the development of genetic markers of pain conditions and for devising new and better strategies for treating pain," Maixner said.

He, Diatchenko and their team are now identifying additional genes that contribute to both pain sensitivity and TMJD, he said. They also have begun investigating new drug therapies for treating TMJD and related conditions.

Other UNC authors of the report are Drs. Andrea G. Nackley, a postdoctoral fellow in the neurosenstory disorders unit; Asgeir Sigurdsson, former associate professor of endodontics; and Konakporn Bhalang, a former graduate student in oral biology now with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

Others are Drs. Inna Belfer, David Goldman, Ke Xu, Svetlana A. Shabalina and Mitchell B. Mask of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Dmitry Shagin of the Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry in Moscow, Russia; and Sergei S. Makarov of Attagene Inc. in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Support for the research came numerous sources including the National Institutes of Health and Attagene Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C.

"This is an outstanding example of translational, multidisciplinary research," Maixner said. "It involved a host of collaborative players -- from clinicians, physiologists, epidemiologists, molecular biologists and geneticists to the UNC School of Dentistry and federal granting agencies such as the NIH and Attagene Inc. representing private industry."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Scientists Discover Genetic Basis For Individual Variations In Pain Perception And A Common Chronic Pain Condition." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111172723.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (2005, January 12). Scientists Discover Genetic Basis For Individual Variations In Pain Perception And A Common Chronic Pain Condition. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111172723.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Scientists Discover Genetic Basis For Individual Variations In Pain Perception And A Common Chronic Pain Condition." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050111172723.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins