A woman in Scotland lives nearly pain-free because of a genetic mutation scientists believe could lead to improved treatments, a study published Thursday said.
The woman, Jo Cameron, visited a doctor when she was 65 years old for an issue with her hip. Although Cameron said she experienced no pain, she discovered she suffered from severe joint degeneration, the study said.
While in the hospital for her hip surgery, doctors noticed Cameron’s thumbs were deformed by osteoarthritis, The Guardian reports, requiring a painful hand operation.
After she had no pain from the surgery, she was referred to pain geneticists who found two gene mutations allowing her to feel virtually no pain, according to the study, published in the peer-reviewed British Journal of Anaesthesia.
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“We found this woman has a particular genotype that reduces activity of a gene already considered to be a possible target for pain and anxiety treatments,” said Dr. James Cox, one of the study’s lead researchers with the University College London Medicine, in a statement.
Cameron – now 71, The Guardian reports – told researchers she has never needed to take painkillers after procedures, and burns would go unnoticed until she smelled burning flesh. Cameron also said any injuries she sustained tended to heal quickly, per the study.
“I had no idea until a few years ago that there was anything that unusual about how little pain I feel – I just thought it was normal,” Cameron said in a statement. “Learning about it now fascinates me as much as it does anyone else.”
In a statement, Cox encouraged any other people who have similar experiences to come forward. “People with rare insensitivity to pain can be valuable to medical research as we learn how their genetic mutations impact how they experience pain,” he said.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.