The pensioner who feels no pain
Scottish pensioner Jo Cameron has revealed she doesn’t suffer from any pain because of a mutation in one of her genes.
The 66-year-old also said she has little fear or anxiety.
The discovery came last year when the woman didn’t feel any symptoms from a severe joint degeneration.
Earlier this year doctors at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness were surprised when she felt no discomfort after undergoing surgery on her hand.
After a series of tests NHS consultant Dr Devjit Srivastava referred the patient to pain geneticists at the University of Oxford and UCL where scientists found a small piece missing in a pseudogene, otherwise known as a “micro-deletion”.
They also found a mutation in a neighbourhood gene which controls the FAAH enzyme.
For those of you who aren’t quite up to speed with your science knowledge the FAAH gene controls your mood, memory and pain sensation.
So they came up with the quirky term FAAH-OUT to describe the patient’s rare condition.
Throughout her life the pensioner has found the injures she has experienced have tended to heal very quickly and she only became aware of any cuts or burns when she could smell burning flesh although she admitted suffering lapses of memory loss and forgetting words.
Cameron said: “I had no idea until a few years ago that there was anything that unusual about how little pain I feel, I just thought it was normal. Learning about it now fascinates me as much as it does anyone else.
“I would be elated if any research into my own genetics could help other people who are suffering.”
Dr James Cox from the UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research said: “We found this woman has a particular genotype that reduces activity of a gene already considered to be a possible target for pain and anxiety treatments.
“Now that we are uncovering how this newly-identified gene works, we hope to make further progress on new treatment targets.
“We hope that with time, our findings might contribute to clinical research for post-operative pain and anxiety, and potentially chronic pain, PTSD and wound healing, perhaps involving gene therapy techniques.”
Jo Coleman has never felt the need to ask for painkillers.