The reason some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others has never been fully known, but a new study suggests that a few key genes may play a part in pain perception.
Researchers were able to identify four genes (COMT, DRD2, DRD1 and OPRK1) that may determine pain sensation after evaluating 2,721 people diagnosed with chronic pain. The subjects, who were taking prescription opioid medications, were asked to rate their discomfort on a scale from zero to 10; people who rated their pain as zero were excluded from the study.
Nine percent of the participants had low pain perception; 46% had moderate pain perception; and 45% had high pain perception. The researchers found that the DRD1 gene variant was 33% more prevalent in the low-pain group than in the high-pain group. Among people in the moderate-pain group, the COMT and OPRK1 gene variants were found 25% and 19% more often, respectively, than in those with high pain perception. Finally, the DRD2 gene variant was 25% more common in those with high pain perception than in people with moderate pain perception.
“Our study is quite significant because it provides an objective way to understand pain and why different individuals have different pain tolerance levels,” said study author Tobore Onojjighofia, MD, MPH, with Proove Biosciences and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Finding genes that may play a role in pain perception could provide a target for developing new therapies and help physicians better understand their patients’ perceptions of pain.”
The study was supported by Proove Biosciences.
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