Gene Mutation Offers Promise Of Addiction-Free Pain Management
Pharmaceutical companies are eyeing a gene that produces a pain-related protein as a way to turn pain on and off without using opioids. In other news in genetic research, women who have the BRCA1 gene have a higher risk of uterine cancer and critics say the study of epigenetics needs to be overhauled.
Could A Molecular "On-Off Switch For Agony" Lead To A Safer Painkiller?
A boy in Pakistan became a local legend as a street performer in recent years by traversing hot coals and lancing his arms with knives without so much as a wince. A thousand miles away, in China, lived a family wracked by excruciating bouts of inexplicable pain, passed down generation after generation. Scientists eventually determined what the boy and the family had in common: mutations in a gene that functions like an on-off switch for agony. Now, a bevy of biotech companies, including Genentech and Biogen, are staking big money on the idea that they can develop drugs that toggle that switch to relieve pain without the risk of addiction. (Garde, 7/5)
The New York Times:
Growing Pains For Field Of Epigenetics As Some Call For Overhaul
Our genes are not just naked stretches of DNA. They’re coiled into intricate three-dimensional tangles, their lengths decorated with tiny molecular “caps.” These so-called epigenetic marks are crucial to the workings of the genome: They can silence some genes and activate others. Epigenetic marks are crucial for our development. Among other functions, they direct a single egg to produce the many cell types, including blood and brain cells, in our bodies. But some high-profile studies have recently suggested something more: that the environment can change your epigenetic marks later in life, and that those changes can have long-lasting effects on health. (Zimmer, 7/1)
The Washington Post:
Uterine Cancer Risk Higher For Women With ‘Breast Cancer Gene’ Mutation
Women with a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which is already linked to breast and ovarian cancers, also face a higher risk of a deadly type of uterine cancer, according to a new study. Lead author Noah Kauff, director of Clinical Cancer Genetics at the Duke Cancer Institute, said the study was the first "conclusive link" between the gene defect and an increased likelihood of serous endometrial carcinoma, a type of cancer that affects the lining of the uterus and has a mortality rate of 50 percent. Many women with BRCA mutations have their breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce their risk of developing cancer. (McGinley, 7/1)