Geneticists have discovered the secret of the family from Italy that feels no pain

© Fotolia / Dan RaceУченый with a model DNA in a test tubeGeneticists have discovered the secret of the family from Italy that feels no pain© Fotolia / Dan Race

An elderly woman from Italy, her two daughters and three grandchildren don’t feel pain due to a mutation in the gene ZFHX2, which is responsible for the Assembly of most components of the pain receptors in the nerve cells, according to an article published in the journal Brain.

«If the members of this family break arms or legs, they initially feel a little pain, but it passes quickly. For example, Leticia broke his shoulder when he went skiing, didn’t notice it and continued to ride all day. On the turn she learned only the next day,» said James Cox (James Cox) from University College London (UK).

In the genome of humans and other animals with an extensive nervous system there are a few dozen genes that are responsible for the interaction with the environment and the production of danger signals. The most effective and versatile of them is the feeling of pain, help people to remember the threat objects and phenomena and avoid them in the future.

Accordingly, if these genes are broken, then the owner or ceases to feel pain at all, or only some feels. A striking example of this — the Cape naked mole rats, small rodents, almost not reacting to acid, fire and many other stimuli due to mutations in the genes responsible for the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Cox and his colleagues uncovered the genetic secrets of the unique Italian family, deciphering and comparing DNA 78-year-old grandmother, her 50-year-old daughters and three grandchildren-the teenagers, who can compete with samplecompany in insensitivity to pain.

For the first time about the family «supermen» scientists found out in 2008, when told about her Italian doctors. Its members often get fractures or severe bruises and cuts and never noticed this, and continued to work with his hands and feet as if they were not broken.

Doctors long could not understand, how it happened, these people did not feel the serious pain associated with injuries of the bones and muscles, but often complained of headache and pain in the intestine, and discomfort during childbirth. To clarify the issue, scientists have decoded the DNA of family members and studied the structure of all genes associated with pain.

As it turned out, the cause of «superpowers» has become a single mutation in the gene ZFHX2, which plays the role of a regulator of sensitivity of nerve cells in response to various painful stimuli.

Intrigued by his role in the «pain center» in the brain, the researchers first removed the gene from the DNA of mice, and then transplanted them a «mutant» version of ZFHX2. As a result, the rodents have almost completely stopped responding to heat, burns, burning substances and other painful stimuli, because it changed the work of 16 other genes, the activity of which governs ZFHX2.

This discovery, as noted by Cox, could help scientists create drugs that would suppress it, and temporarily «disconnect» the pain. As for the Italian families, the scientists suggested its members to reverse the procedure and bring a sense of pain, but they refused.