You have certainly met people who tolerated pain better than you and other individuals or, if lucky, you yourself may be one of those who can put up with pain and endure high, persistent pain without complaining about it. Have you ever wondered why some people are not that sensitive to pain as most of their counterparts? Maybe because they are lucky...? You are half way there...They are lucky indeed, because they are born with 'lucky', better genes.
That's right, pain lies in the genes and is all about genetics - some individuals are as lucky as to be 'equipped' with better genes which increase their resistance to pain, while other individuals are less lucky and inherit a higher sensitivity to pain.
According to a recent study carried out by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, our sensitivity to pain depends on levels of the BH4 molecule present in our bodies. This molecule is responsible for the production of major neurotransmitter chemicals and it also 'dictates' our tolerance or lack of tolerance to chronic pain.
Senior author of the study Dr Clifford Woolf, Director of the Neural Plasticity Research Group at the Massachusetts General Hospital stated: "This is the first evidence of a genetic contribution to the risk of developing neuropathic pain in humans. The pain-protective gene sequence, which is carried by about 25 percent of the population, appears to be a marker both for less pain sensitivity and a reduced risk for chronic pain."
The team of scientists pointed out the fact that tracking down the exact biological factor which triggers increased or reduced vulnerability to pain is very important for medical experts. This would 'open the door' to the development of new strategies and techniques of reducing persistent pain in patients of a wide range of conditions.
Dr Clifford Woolf said: "Identifying those at greater risk of developing chronic pain in response to medical procedures, trauma or diseases could lead to new preventive strategies and potential treatments."
The overall results of the study showed that increasing levels of the BH4 molecule in subjects led to elevated sensitivity to pain, while reducing levels of the same molecule in one's body caused the same individuals to feel less pain.
"Our results tell us that BH4 is a key pain-producing molecule - when it goes up, patients experience pain, and if it is not elevated, they will have less pain. The data also suggest that individuals who say they feel less pain are not just stoics but genuinely have inherited a molecular machinery that reduces their perception of pain. The difference results not from personality or culture, but real differences in the biology of the sensory nervous system," concluded senior author of the study.