She's 71 and has literally never felt pain. Her strange condition could help revolutionize pain management.

Jo Cameron has been pain-free all her life — something many might dub a superpower of sorts.

While other women struggle with the pain that comes along with childbirth, when Cameron gave birth to her two children, she felt only “a tickle.” Later on in life, she didn’t realize she needed to have her hip replaced until she physically couldn’t walk. She also couldn’t tell she had been burned until others smelled burning flesh, and failed to notice cuts until someone else pointed out blood. Spicy foods — such as Scotch bonnet chili peppers — didn’t set her mouth on fire and instead left her with a “pleasant glow.”

Her body also heals more quickly than most, with her injuries rarely resulting in scars.


[rebelmouse-image 19534995 dam="1" original_size="640x426" caption="Image by Hans/Pixabay." expand=1]Image by Hans/Pixabay.

While all this sounds pretty incredible, Cameron didn’t think much of it until around five years ago, after she underwent surgery on her hand. She told her doctor, Dr. Devjit Srivastava, that she wouldn’t need any pain medication during recovery. Obviously, this was an unusual patient request, but after delving into her medical history, he quickly realized she was a special case.

So he sent her to see a team of doctors and researchers focused on how genetics can be used to understand the biology of pain and touch at the University College London’s Molecular Nociception Group. Eventually they wrote a paper, which was published on Thursday in The British Journal of Anaesthesia, on the curious case of Cameron, whose pain-free existence seemed unexplainable.

Though these specialists had worked with several individuals who process pain differently, Cameron’s genetic profile was unique for an individual who couldn’t feel pain.

Eventually they discovered her uniqueness could be explained by the fact that she is missing the front of a gene they have dubbed FAAH-OUT — a gene all us have — but they claim she is the only individual they know about who has this specific genetic mutation.

[rebelmouse-image 19534996 dam="1" original_size="640x360" caption="Image by Public Domain/Pixabay." expand=1]Image by Public Domain/Pixabay.

“We’ve never come across a patient like this,” John Wood, the head of the Molecular Nociception Group at University College London, revealed to the New York Times.

According to researchers, this mutated gene does more than prevents Cameron from feeling pain. She also can’t feel fear or anxiety, which doctors think have something to do with the gene mutation making her more forgetful.

"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 told the BBC.

Jo Cameron believes she inherited the mutation from her late father, who she remembers suffered from little pain as well.

“I can’t remember him needing any painkillers,” she told the New York Times. “I think that’s why I didn’t find it odd.” Since he is no longer living, there is no way to know if he was a carrier. While her daughter and mother do not have the mutation, according to her doctors, her son “has the same microdeletion in FAAH-OUT, but does not have the other mutation that confers reduced FAAH function.” So he’s insensitive to some pain, but not all.

Could Cameron’s extraordinary gene help others manage their pain and anxiety better? Doctors are hopeful, but the road ahead is long.

Researchers hope that further studies will help them design gene therapy, pain intervention methods or anxiety medications, though expect it will take many years and a lot of money before a product will emerge.

“I’m reasonably confident that the lessons we are learning from the genes involved in pain will lead to the development of an entirely new class of pain medications,” Dr. Stephen G. Waxman, a Yale neurologist who was not involved with the paper but has studied the subject matter, told the New York Times.

[rebelmouse-image 19534997 dam="1" original_size="640x426" caption="Image by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay" expand=1]Image by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

Considering that painkillers on the market today — especially opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and morphine — are incredibly addictive and responsible for tens of thousands of drug overdoses every year, finding a responsible pain cure could save so many lives. And if there are more people like Cameron out there, the likelihood of this mutation resulting in a novel pain treatment system is even higher.

There are lots of unknowns, but scientists have come a long way in their research with genetics in recent years. It will be exciting to see the impact an unusual case like Cameron’s has on medicine in the years to come.

True

It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.

Keep Reading Show less

Yuri has a very important message for his co-workers.

While every person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is different, there are some common communication traits that everyone should understand. Many with ASD process language literally and have a hard time understanding body language, social cues, exaggeration and cultural cues.

This can lead to misunderstandings that result in people with ASD appearing to be rude when it wasn't their intent. If more neurotypical people (those without ASD) better understood these communication differences, it’d be much easier for everyone to get along.

A perfect example of this problem and how to fix it was shared by Yuri, a transmasc person who goes by he/they, who posts on TikTok about having ADHD and ASD. In a post that has more than 2.3 million views, Yuri claims he was “booked for a disciplinary meeting for being a bad communicator.”

Keep Reading Show less

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Coming into land… what does this joystick do?

Being a pilot is arguably one of the most demanding jobs in the world. People trust you with their lives and there is virtually zero margin for error. Yet professional pilots do it with seeming ease. If you have ever had the privilege of being in a cockpit while someone’s flying, you'll know they make it appear like it’s a task anyone with any amount of video game knowledge can do. Of course, it’s not that simple. Flying a plane takes up to a year of hands-on training depending on the type of aircraft you’d like to fly and the training program you attend.

Learning to fly a plane is almost always a voluntary decision, except in this one truly noteworthy instance.

Keep Reading Show less

Emily Calandrelli was stopped by TSA agents when she tried to bring her ice packs for pumped milk through airport security.

Traveling without your baby for the first time can be tough. And if you're breastfeeding, it can be even tougher, as you have to pump milk every few hours to keep your body producing enough, to avoid an enormous amount of discomfort and to prevent risk of infection.

But for Emily Calandrelli, taking a recent work trip away from her 10-week-old son was far more challenging than it needed to be.

Calandrelli is a mom of two, an aerospace engineer and the host of the Netflix kids' science show "Emily's Wonder Lab." She was recently taking her first work trip since welcoming her second child, which included a five-hour flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Calandrelli is breastfeeding her son and had planned to pump just before boarding the plane. She brought ice packs to keep the milk from spoiling during the flight, but when she tried to go through airport security, the TSA agents refused to let her take some of her supplies.

Keep Reading Show less