Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have managed to discover a gene, which is connected with susceptibility to chronic pain triggered by nerve injury in humans.
Darvasi and an international team of researchers that included Prof. Marshall Devor of the Hebrew University and Canadian and European scientists undertook two fine-mapping approaches to narrow down the chromosomal locus to an interval of 155 genes.
By applying bioinformatics approaches and whole genome microarray analysis, they then were able to confidently identify a single gene, Cacgn2, as the likely candidate.
To further test the potential role for Cacgn2 in chronic pain, the authors utilized a mouse strain harbouring a mutant version of the gene that had previously been used in epilepsy research.
In testing the mice for behavioural and electrophysiological characteristics of chronic pain, they found that, the observations were consistent with a functional role for Cacgn2 in pain, even though it might be modest.
However, the question still remained as to whether the human version of the gene also is important for chronic pain.
Analysing a cohort of breast cancer patients who experienced chronic pain half a year or more after they that had undergone removal or partial removal of a breast, they found that genetic variants of Cacng2 were significantly associated with this chronic pain.
"The immediate significance is the mere awareness that differences in pain perception may have a genetic predisposition. Our discovery may provide insights for treating chronic pain through previously unthought-of mechanisms," explained Darvasi.
The reports are published online in Genome Research (www.genome.org).