She’d been told that childbirth was going to be painful. But as the hours wore on, nothing bothered her. She gave birth even without an epidural.
“I could feel that my body was changing, but it didn’t hurt me,” recalled the woman, Jo Cameron, who is now 71. She likened it to “a tickle.” Later, she would tell prospective mothers, “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as people say it is.”
Four decades later, science has explained in a paper published Thursday, March 28, 2019, in The British Journal of Anaesthesia, researchers attributed Ms. Cameron’s virtually pain-free life to a mutation in a previously unidentified gene. The hope, they say, is that the finding could eventually contribute to the development of novel pain treatment. They believe this mutation may also be connected to why Ms. Cameron has felt little anxiety or fear throughout her life and why her body heals quickly.
Microdeletion is a FAAH pseudogene identified in a patient with high anandamide concentrations and pain insensitivity.
“We’ve never come across a patient like this,” said John Wood, the head of the Molecular Nociception Group at University College London.
She was living a happy, ordinary life on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland with her husband, she said. After a hand operation, a doctor seemed perplexed that she was not experiencing any pain and did not want painkillers. This led scientists to investigate.
“I guarantee I won’t need anything,” Ms. Cameron recalled telling Dr. Devjit Srivastava, a consultant in anesthesia and pain medicine at a National Health Service hospital in northern Scotland and one of the authors of the paper.
At 65, she’d needed to have her hip replaced. Because it had not caused her pain, she had not noticed anything was amiss until it severely degenerated. Cuts, burns, fractures — these did not hurt either. In fact, it often took the smell of burning flesh or her husband identifying blood for her to notice something wrong. She also reported that eating Scotch bonnet chili peppers left only a “pleasant glow.”
Dr. James Cox, a senior lecturer with that group and another author of the new paper, inspected her genetic profile, it did not resemble that of others known to live without pain.
Eventually, he found what he was looking for on a gene the scientists call FAAH-OUT. All of us have this gene. But in Ms. Cameron’s, “the patient has a deletion that removes the front of the gene,” he said. Additional blood work confirmed this hypothesis, he said.
Scientists are also intrigued by Ms. Cameron’s extraordinarily low anxiety level. On an anxiety disorder questionnaire, she scored zero out of 21. She cannot recall ever having felt depressed or scared.
Alongside her immunity to pain, Mrs. Cameron also claims she never panics.
She even managed to stay calm when her car flipped over into a ditch two years ago.
“I am very happy,” she said.
Although this mutation may sound like a dream, there are downsides. One is that she is quite forgetful; prone to losing her keys and her train of thought mid-sentence. The other is that she’s never felt the “adrenaline rush” that other people talk about, she said.
Ref. MSN/lifestyle/nytimes, dailymail.co.uk.com, bbc.com
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