Genetic link between chronic pain conditions

21 May 2014

Researchers have suggested that four types of chronic pain share common genetic elements, and that inherited susceptibility to these conditions may be significant.


Chronic pain is a relatively common and intractable medical problem, thought in many cases to relate to malfunction of the nervous system.


Research funded by the Pain Relief Foundation and carried out by members of the Pain research group at King’s College London examined more than 8,000 pairs of twins (identical and non-identical) from the TwinsUK cohort for symptoms of chronic pain and common genetic variants.


Identical twins (with identical genome sequences) were more likely than non-identical twins to share symptoms. Writing in the journal Pain, the researchers concluded that all five pain-associated conditions considered – migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, musculoskeletal pain, pelvic pain and dry eye disease – involve genetic predisposing genetic factors. With the exception of migraine, they were also found to share common genetic susceptibility factors, raising the possibility of a shared genetic pathway with more than 50% heritability.


Lead researcher Dr Frances Williams said their work could potentially “lead to therapies which may change the lives of those suffering with chronic pain”.  Certainly it suggests a potentially valuable new line of enquiry.

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