A minute change in a gene that affects the function of sodium channels in neurons might contribute to individual differences in pain sensitivity, British scientists report (Reimann F et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107:5148-5153).
Earlier research had linked rare mutations in SCN9A—a gene that encodes a protein in a type of sodium channel—with disorders characterized by either excessive pain or insensitivity to pain. In the new work, a study of 578 patients with osteoarthritis, the researchers found that variants of SCN9A affect pain perception in more subtle ways. Those with a rare allele (found in 10% of the patients) of a particular single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) had higher pain self-assessment scores than did those with the more common allele for this SNP.
Stephenson J. Pain-Promoting Gene?. JAMA. 2010;303(15):1470. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.474