Researchers are hoping to harness the gene mutations that some individuals have that enable them to not feel pain to treat people who do, MIT's Technology Review reports.
Researchers led by the University of California, San Diego's Ana Moreno reported in a preprint posted to bioRxiv last month that they used the CRISPR-Cas9 machinery and zinc fingers to epigenetically repress the sodium voltage gated channel gene SCN9A, as loss-of-function mutations in that gene lead to congenital insensitivity to pain. They report that they were able to use this approach to manage pain in three different mouse models.
Now, Tech Review reports that Morelo and others have formed a company, Navega Therapeutics, to pursue a CRISPR-based pain treatment. It notes, though, that other firms have previously tried targeting this gene through more conventional means, with mixed outcomes. It also adds that there could be downsides to targeting pain — people who have this mutation naturally also have a limited sense of smell and have hurt themselves because they can't feel it.