New Study Finds Gene Linked to Neanderthals Causes Increased Pain Sensitivity
Scientists have recently discovered a gene, SCN9A, that is responsible for heightened sensitivity to pain from sharp prodding. This groundbreaking study has also found a strong connection between the gene and Neanderthals, as well as Native American ancestry.
The research team analyzed genetic data from over 5,900 individuals across Latin America, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Surprisingly, the Peruvians, who had the highest proportion of Indigenous blood, were found to have the highest frequency of the SCN9A variants. In fact, approximately 30% of the study participants had the most common SCN9A variant. Another 13% had the other two variants.
The SCN9A gene plays a vital role in creating a protein that transports sodium into cells, contributing to the transmission of pain signals from pain-detecting nerves. During testing, participants with the SCN9A variants displayed a decreased pain threshold to pinprick pressure.
Moreover, the study suggests that these gene variants may have been passed down from Neanderthals, aiding in our ancestors’ ability to cope with cold conditions. This is especially intriguing due to the high frequency of SCN9A variants among those with Native American ancestry. It is presumed that interbreeding between Neanderthals and modern humans who migrated to the Americas led to this prevalence.
It is important to note that these gene variants do not affect pain sensitivity to pressure, heat, or cold; they solely impact sensitivity to sharp prodding. This adds to our understanding of the complex relationship between genetics and pain perception.
Interestingly, mail order DNA services currently offer testing for Neanderthal heritage, but do not include pain sensitivity tests. However, this new study provides further evidence of the genetic influence of Neanderthals on modern humans, offering valuable insights into our shared history.
In conclusion, scientists have identified an intriguing gene, SCN9A, that increases sensitivity to pain from sharp prodding. This gene, also found in Neanderthals, has a high frequency among individuals with Native American ancestry, particularly among those with Indigenous blood. The study’s results shed light on the genetic influence of ancient humans on our pain perception and contribute to our understanding of our shared history with Neanderthals.
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