From the Advertiser, October 27 2015
The clue to stopping pain at its source emerged in an unusual way – from a Pakistani boy who was busking by walking on hot coals. Five years ago curious scientists wondered how he would stand the pain.
Investigations found he had a rare genetic mutation, lacking a gene which notifies the brain of pain.
A team at Flinders Medical Centre, led by Associate Professor Nick Spencer, is using the information to develop a pain switch, potentially eliminating the need for highly-addictive painkillers such as morphine.
The work is now being done on animals, but Prof Spencer said genetic therapies using harmless viruses are now being used in more than 80 studies around the world as similar delivery systems for cancer and other conditions.
“We know in humans that if you have an extremely rare mutation and lack this gene you don’t feel pain at all.
“The virus takes a molecule to shut down the gene, it shuts down the channels for pain.”
Prof Spencer said it would provide long lasting suppression at the site of the pain.
The FMC team has been working on the therapy for three years trying to find the exact location of all of the body’s nerve endings that detect pain from different internal organs and how these pain receptors are activated.
In his laboratory experiments so far on animal models, Prof Spencer has reduced pain by about 75 per cent from a specific organ, the gastrointestinal tract, without affecting other organs.
Last year Prof Spencer was awarded more than $900,000 in funding by the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct research. (Emphasis added)
It just won’t go away. “Pain switch”, “pain channels”. The reporter get a pass, but a researcher with a million bucks in his pocket…..
1. If you have the extremely rare mutation, do you not feel pain because your body can’t send ‘pain messages’ or is it because you’ve never experienced nociception and therefore have not learnt what pain is/how to make it? If this is the case would shutting down this gene in someone who has learnt how to make pain (probably too well if we’re talking chronic pain) really be the answer?
2. If research is based on erroneous notions of “pain channels”, ‘finding nerve endings that detect pain’ and ‘flicking the pain switch’, how likely is it to succeed?