Family in Italy are unable to feel pain due to rare genetic mutation

Nick Reilly
A family in Italy are unable to feel pain (Picture: REX)

An Italian family that is unable to feel pain are being studied by scientists in the hope that their shared disorder may lead to the development of new painkiller drugs.

The family members include a 78 year-old woman, her two middle-aged daughters and her three children.

All of them are barely unable to feel pain, and were found to have bone fractures in both their arms and legs when they are assessed by medics.

Describing the condition, University College London researcher James Cox said: ‘Sometimes they feel pain in the initial break but it goes away very quickly.

‘For example, Letizia broke her shoulder while skiing, but then kept skiing for the rest of the day and drove home. She didn’t get it checked out until the next day.’


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In order to determine the cause of their pain sensitivity, Cox and his colleagues performed a series of tests on the family which determined that they all had a mutation in a gene called ZFHX2.

When the gene was removed from mice, they found that animals were not as good at sending pain – suggesting that it may play a role in controlling stimuli.

The researchers now hope to establish how the genes contribute to the reduce sensation of pain in the hope that they may be able to offer a solution to people to suffer from chronic pain.