- Doctors identified a genetic mutation in a woman which means she barely feels pain or panic.
- Jo Cameron, 71, has experienced surgeries, childbirth, and broken limbs without any pain.
- A doctor sent her to specialists because Cameron wanted no pain medication after hand surgery.
- Specialists discovered that she a mutation on a previously unknown gene that affects pain sensation and mood.
Scientists in the UK have discovered a new genetic mutation in a Scottish woman, which means she feels virtually no pain, fear or panic, a medical journal said on Thursday.
Jo Cameron’s doctor noticed her condition when she required no painkillers after a hand surgery, and referred her to specialists in England.
The British Journal of Anaesthesia published a case report about her on Thursday.
Cameron told The Guardian she never suspected she was different to other people, even though she went through surgeries, childbirth, and broken limbs without any pain. She claims that in the past she only realised she had burned herself on the stove because she could smell burning flesh, not because it hurt.
The 71-year-old also said she rarely experienced stress – even when an accident caused her car to topple over into a ditch.
“I knew that I was happy-go-lucky, but it didn’t dawn on me that I was different,” she told the British newspaper. “I thought it was just me.”
That meant Cameron did not notice the extent of her health issues. She had trouble walking because of a bad hip and her thumbs were deformed by osteoarthritis, but she was not in pain.
Cameron told BBC Scotland she would not change anything about her experience, but that she wishes she could have heard the alarm bells.
“It would be nice to have warning when something’s wrong – I didn’t know my hip was gone until it was really gone,” she said.
What sparked the discovery of Cameron’s mutation was the operation on her thumbs, usually a very painful procedure. Her anaesthetist Devjit Srivastava was stunned she requested no pain medication, and referred her case to a team at University College of London (UCL).
The specialists found that the mutation is on a previously unknown gene. This new gene affects how much anadamide, a chemical that controls pain sensation, mood and memory, is broken down, according to The Guardian.
Because of her mutation, Cameron’s body did not break down anadamide, and it built up in her system. That caused an analgesic effect.
The UCL case report details that Cameron’s son also has some pain insesitivity, though not to the same degree as her.
Dr. James Cox, who co-authored the paper, told BBC News that finding more people with rare insensivity to pain is important for medical research.
“We hope that with time, our findings might contribute to clinical research for post-operative pain and anxiety, and potentially chronic pain, PTSD and wound healing,” he said.
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