A genetic alteration that causes the congenital inability to experience pain is reported online this week in Nature Genetics.
Ingo Kurth and colleagues report the identification of a mutation in the SCN11A gene in individuals born with an inability to perceive pain. The authors engineered mice to carry the mutation and found that these mice have reduced sensitivity to pain.
SCN11A is known to encode an ion channel that is expressed in nerve cells that transmit pain signals.Kurth and colleagues found that mutant channels showed excessive activity, suggesting that these channels may be useful targets for the development of a therapeutic intervention to modulate pain perception.
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