Technology Neanderthal Genetics May Explain Your Low Tolerance for Pain

16:44  01 august  2020
16:44  01 august  2020 Source:   popularmechanics.com

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Genetic studies on Neanderthal ancient DNA became possible in the late 1990s. The Neanderthal genome project, established in 2006, presented the first fully sequenced Neanderthal genome in 2013.

Neanderthals and modern humans have mixed and exchanged genes several times over the millennia. Researchers have discovered that people who have inherited a gene variant for an ion channel from Neanderthals have a lower pain threshold. Credit: © Science Photo Library / Daynes, Elisabeth.

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  • A new paper published in Current Biology describes how a sodium channel inherited from Neanderthals may be responsible for low pain tolerance in modern humans.
  • While the in-depth study is compelling, this theory remains inconclusive.

If you have a low tolerance for pain new research suggests you should blame it on our Neanderthal cousins.

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Genome study finds Neanderthals had a lower pain threshold than majority of modern humans. Surprisingly, modern humans with Neanderthal genes experience more pain . Having a lower sensitivity to pain could mean that Neanderthals had to have stronger social networks to survive.

Researchers believe that Neanderthals had a lower pain threshold than modern humans. A study has shown that because of genetic mutations our extinct relatives were more sensitive to pain . Read moreSection: NewsHistory & Archaeology www.Ancient-Origins.net

According to joint research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, “people who inherited a special ion channel from Neanderthals experience more pain.”

In their paper, the researchers describe Nav1.7, a sodium channel “crucial for impulse generation and conduction in peripheral pain pathways,” which showed reduced inactivation in Neanderthals. Researchers deduced that because of this lowered level of activation, Neanderthals experienced heightened pain sensitivity in comparison to modern humans.

“In Neanderthals, the Nav1.7 protein carried three amino acid substitutions (M932L, V991L, and D1908G) relative to modern humans. We expressed Nav1.7 proteins carrying all combinations of these substitutions and studied their electrophysiological effects. Whereas the single amino acid substitutions do not affect the function of the ion channel, the full Neanderthal variant carrying all three substitutions, as well as the combination of V991L with D1908G, shows reduced inactivation, suggesting that peripheral nerves were more sensitive to painful stimuli in Neanderthals than in modern humans.”

The researchers also discovered that through passed down genes, “0.4 percent of present-day Britons” are carriers of the Neanderthal amino acid substitutions.

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Do you wince as you walk, or wake up with aches and pains ? It could be down to your genes -- your Neanderthal genes , that is.

A researcher excavating a Neanderthal skeleton last year.Credit Gailan Haji/EPA-EFE/REX.

When Neanderthals and Denisovans—a group belonging to the Homo genus who were a species of early human and are also known as the Denisova hominins—mated with the earliest modern humans, several genetic variants from both groups (Neanderthals and Denisovans) emerged and have been passed down to us.

Additionally, the researchers also analyzed the SCN9A gene which acts as a guide for the production of the sodium channels and encodes the Nav1.7 protein. In their paper, the researchers share that humans who experience “loss-of-function mutations of SCN9A” tend to develop “insensitivity to pain” and anosmia (a lost sense of smell) whereas “gain-of-function mutations” cause people to present with “sensory symptoms and pain, with pain as the dominant symptom.”

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Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released "Our study is quite significant because it provides an objective way to understand pain and why different individuals have different pain tolerance levels

Pain tolerance is influenced by people's emotions, bodies, and lifestyles. Here are several factors that Grabois says can affect pain tolerance "We have different receptors for pain in our body, and those receptors respond differently, whether you're taking aspirin or acetaminophen," Stelian Serban, MD

“The Neanderthal variant of the ion channel carries three amino acid differences to the common, ‘modern’ variant,” says lead paper author and a researcher, Hugo Zeberg, in a news release.

“While single amino acid substitutions do not affect the function of the ion channel, the full Neanderthal variant carrying three amino acid substitutions leads to heightened pain sensitivity in present-day people,” Zeberg explains.

And it turns out that age is a factor in pain sensation, too. Zeberg says that those who carry the Neanderthal variant experience pain as if they “were eight years older.” In order to study the aforementioned genetic substitutions in real time, the researchers synthesized genes which included both the Neanderthal and modern human Nav1.7 sodium channel and transcribed them in vitro before injecting them into African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) oocytes (ovarian cells.)

The researchers also used data from UK Biobank of 198,047 adult females and 164,897 adult males from the United Kingdom and found that those who were carriers of the variant ion channel had a lower tolerance for pain.

While compelling, the results are not definitive. The researchers conclude that while they cannot be absolutely certain that Neanderthals “necessarily experienced more pain that modern humans do,” there’s a strong case for this hypothesis being that Neanderthal peripheral nerve endings were extra sensitive to stimuli “as suggested by the observations in present-day people heterozygous for the Neanderthal Nav1.7 variant.”

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