Doctors discover a new genetic mutation in a woman that made her almost unable to feel pain and stress even after a number of surgeries.
Jo Cameron, 71, said she has always been a happy-go-lucky person, but she did not realize it had something to do with her genes.
Researchers believe that studying this genetic mutation would eventually lead to new treatments for chronic pain.
Cameron, a retired teacher from Inverness in Scotland, was once ditched off in her car after she had been run over on the road. She only sustained bruises and did not notice it until after the incident.
She has always been upbeat, and her depression test score came back zero. When she had a hip replacement surgery, she managed the pain with only two paracetamol the day after.
The doctors also performed a double hand surgery due to her osteoarthritis, a procedure that was supposed to be excruciatingly painful. Cameron almost had no pain, which prompted her specialists to do genetic testing.
"It's called the happy gene or forgetful gene. I have been annoying people by being happy and forgetful all my life. I've got an excuse now," she said in an interview.
A team of researchers from University College London led by Dr. James Cox studied Cameron's case. They found that her enhanced healing and dulled sense of fear and anxiety are due to a previously unknown gene mutation.
The UCL team, together with pain geneticists at the University of Oxford, conducted genetic analyses. Two notable mutations emerged, which are responsible for pain signaling, mood, and memory.
The gene later dubbed as FAAH-OUT was only briefly annotated in earlier literature. Scientists initially thought it was a junk gene that had no function.
About one in two patients experience moderate to severe pain after surgery even with advanced pain killer medications.
"The findings point towards a novel pain killer discovery that could potentially offer post-surgical pain relief and also accelerate wound healing. We hope this could help the 330 million patients who undergo surgery globally every year," said Dr. Devjit Srivastava, a consultant in anesthesia and pain medicine and co-author of the paper.
Details of Cameron's case was published in the British Journal of Anesthesia.