A new study, reported in Human Molecular Genetics (January2005), has identified 3 variations of a gene called COMT.The gene influences sensitivity to pain and the risk of developinga chronic pain condition. The study included 202 healthywomen who underwent an analysis of COMT variants and painsensitivity. The participants were followed for 3 years to assessthe development of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD).
The results of the study showed that the presence of a "lowpain sensitivity" variant dramatically lowered the risk of TMD.The researchers are confident that this finding will apply toother chronic pain conditions as well. For the study, the researchersidentified "low," "average," and "high pain sensitivity"variants of the COMT gene. The different combinations of thesevariants forecast how sensitive the participant was to painfulstimuli in the lab. The researchers reported that the COMT variantalso influenced the risk of TMD. Specifically, the presenceof the low pain sensitivity variant lowered the risk by 2.3-fold.
"This is the first demonstration that a genetic variation influencesboth human pain perception and the risk for developing a chronicpain condition," said lead investigator Luda Diatchenko, PhD.