Redheads May Have Different Pain Thresholds – New Research Reveals Why

Redhead Pain

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Study in red-haired mice discovers systems included and recommends brand-new treatment methods for discomfort.

New research study led by detectives at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) offers insights on why individuals with red hair show transformed level of sensitivity to particular sort of discomfort. The findings are released in Science Advances.

In individuals with red hair (as in many other types of animals with red fur), the pigment-producing cells of the skin–called melanocytes–include an alternative kind of the melanocortin 1 receptor. This receptor rests on the cell surface area, and if it ends up being triggered by flowing hormonal agents called melanocortins, it triggers the melanocyte to change from creating yellow/red melanin pigment to producing brown/black melanin pigment. Earlier work by David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center’s Melanoma Program and director of MGH’s Cutaneous Biology Research Center, showed that the failure of red-haired people to tan or darken their skin pigment is traced to non-active versions of this receptor.

To examine the systems behind various discomfort limits in red-haired people, Fisher and his associates studied a pressure of red-haired mice that (as in people) consists of a version that does not have melanocortin 1 receptor function and likewise shows greater discomfort limits.

The group discovered that loss of melanocortin 1 receptor function in the red-haired mice triggered the animals’ melanocytes to produce lower levels of a particle called POMC (proopiomelanocortin) that is consequently cut into various hormonal agents consisting of one that sensitizes to discomfort and one that obstructs discomfort. The existence of these hormonal agents keeps a balance in between opioid receptors that hinder discomfort and melanocortin 4 receptors that improve understanding of discomfort.

In red-haired mice (and for that reason, perhaps people), having both hormonal agents at low levels would relatively cancel each other out. However, the body likewise produces extra, non-melanocyte-related aspects that trigger opioid receptors associated with obstructing discomfort. Therefore, the net impact of lower levels of the melanocyte-related hormonal agents is more opioid signals, which raises the limit for discomfort.

“These findings describe the mechanistic basis behind earlier evidence suggesting varied pain thresholds in different pigmentation backgrounds,” states Fisher. “Understanding this mechanism provides validation of this earlier evidence and a valuable recognition for medical personnel when caring for patients whose pain sensitivities may vary.”

Fisher includes that the outcomes recommend brand-new methods to control the body’s natural procedures that manage discomfort understanding–for instance, by developing brand-new medications that hinder melanocortin 4 receptors associated with noticing discomfort.

“Our ongoing work is focused on elucidating how additional skin-derived signals regulate pain and opioid signaling,” includes co-lead author Lajos V. Kemény, MD, PhD, a research study fellow in Dermatology at MGH. “Understanding these pathways in depth may lead to the identification of novel pain-modulating strategies.”

Reference: “Reduced MC4R signaling alters nociceptive thresholds associated with red hair” by Kathleen C. Robinson, Lajos V. Kemény, Gillian L. Fell, Andrea L. Hermann, Jennifer Allouche, Weihua Ding, Ajay Yekkirala, Jennifer J. Hsiao, Mack Y. Su, Nicholas Theodosakis, Gabor Kozak, Yuichi Takeuchi, Shiqian Shen, Antal Berenyi, Jianren Mao, Clifford J. Woolf and David E. Fisher, 2 April 2021, Science Advances.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1310 

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Melanoma Research Alliance, the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation.