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Could your genes be responsible for how intensely you feel painPeople who feel pain less intensely could have genes that work together to regulate painThose sensitive to pain are more likely to go on to develop chronic pain
22:36 GMT, 20 December 2012
Sensitivity to pain is all in the genes, according to a new study.
People who feel pain less intensely could have a particular set of genes that work together to regulate pain, claims a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics.
The researchers believe this knowledge could eventually pave the way for the development of more effective pain relief treatments.
It is already well-known that people who are sensitive to pain encountered in everyday life are more likely to develop chronic pain which lasts for longer than six months
It is already well-known that people
who are sensitive to pain encountered in everyday life are more likely
to develop chronic pain which lasts for longer than six months.
Dr Frances Williams, from the
Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King's College
London, said: ‘Chronic pain is a significant personal and socio-economic
burden, with nearly one in five people experiencing it at some time in
‘Current pain treatments often have either limited efficacy or side effects for many, so the possibility of a new approach to pain relief is an exciting development.’
To identify pain sensitivity levels, 2,500 volunteers were asked to press a button when a heat sensor on their arm became too painful for them.
The researchers then analysed the DNA of 200 of the most and least pain sensitive people.
People who feel pain more intensely could have a particular set of genes that work together to regulate pain, claims a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics
Results of the study showed different patterns of genetic variants in each group – the pain sensitive people had less variation in their DNA than those who were pain insensitive.
Xin Jin, project manager from the Beijing Genomics Institute, said: ‘More and more evidence supports our theory that rare variants, which were overlooked in genome-wide association study, play a very important role in complex diseases and traits.
‘The next generation of sequencing will make it possible to explore these rare variants and will lead to a wave of new discoveries in biomedical research.’
Ruth McKernan, chief scientific officer of Pfizer's Research Unit in Cambridge, said: ‘This study demonstrates the value of collaborative efforts between academia and industry.
‘The genetic influence on normal pain processing in human volunteer populations will add to other approaches and help us prioritise potential new mechanisms for treating pain.’
Chronic pain is estimated to affect 10 million Britons.
Research commissioned by Lloydspharmacy and published last month, found that 77 per cent of those living with chronic pain have suffered for years, yet many are not seeking professional support from GPs or pain clinics.
The study also highlighted the huge impact pain has on people’s lives, with nearly half of those questioned admitting to feeling depressed as a result of their condition. Nearly 10 per cent said it had made them feel suicidal at some point.
Almost half said they were not accessing regular support from their GP and over two thirds had never used a pain clinic or a support group for help.
Overall, regardless of area, almost two thirds said their pain affected their mobility and 55 per cent said it kept them awake at night.
The same number said they struggled to carry out everyday tasks such as shopping and cleaning.
Chronic pain has become an increasingly important area for the health sector. A Royal College of General Practitioners’ announcement in 2011 identified the treatment of pain as one of its four priorities for 2011-14 – with a view to improving education, training and the patient experience.