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Genetic predisposition to chronic pain



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Tim Vaughan pretty much suggested that we comment on this paper which concerns a mouse study in which the scientists inflicted a neural injury and looked at a specific genetic marker in the mice who did and didn’t develop chronic symptoms consistent with pain. They also looked at the marker in post-surgical humans who developed chronic pain and found a link. Here is my response to Tim’s suggestion:

We saw this paper and I was going to write a blog-post on it and then I read it and I was too intimidated by it.  Do genetics people have more acronyms than the rest of us? What this feeble brain can decipher tells me that the authors are indeed implicating that there is a genetic predisposition to chronic pain in mice given neural injuries AND in post-surgical cancer patients getting chronic pain.  That is fair enough I reckon – their findings come a long way shy of saying genetics are the ONLY thing, in fact they don’t, as far as I can work out, play the biggest role. When I am feeling a bit out of my depth with this sort of stuff I always enjoy coming back to Mick Thacker’s line – genotype is important, but phenotype is the big deal.

Get this though, while we are on things of genetics, I just learnt from Duncan Sinclair, who was talking about a seminal paper, as part of our post-grad seminar series on scientific writing, that when rats or humans have a big enough stressor really early in life, it can change the genetics they pass onto their offspring. Fearfully and wonderfully complex indeed.



Nissenbaum, J., Devor, M., Seltzer, Z., Gebauer, M., Michaelis, M., Tal, M., Dorfman, R., Abitbul-Yarkoni, M., Lu, Y., Elahipanah, T., delCanho, S., Minert, A., Fried, K., Persson, A., Shpigler, H., Shabo, E., Yakir, B., Pisante, A., & Darvasi, A. (2010). Susceptibility to chronic pain following nerve injury is genetically affected by CACNG2 Genome Research DOI: 10.1101/gr.104976.110

McGowan PO, Sasaki A, D’Alessio AC, Dymov S, Labonté B, Szyf M, Turecki G, & Meaney MJ (2009). Epigenetic regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in human brain associates with childhood abuse. Nature neuroscience, 12 (3), 342-8 PMID: 19234457

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