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Science

Pain-free mice 67

Posted by michael
from the makes-being-an-experimental-subject-almost-fun dept.
mccalli writes: "Not input devices, but real live squeaky things. Apparently, Canadian scientists are trying to breed mice that do not feel pain. The eventual goal is a better pain killer for humans, but this is said to be a long way off. More in the Nature article here."
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Pain-free mice

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  • Is this so wise? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dashslot (23909) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:46AM (#2841519)
    I think one of the reasons we feel pain is so that we don't do stupid things...

    Be very close to fire.
    Touch very sharp things.
    Drink/spill other people's pints, or look at their women

    So if we now have painkillers that kill all pain, there are going to be a lot of mutillated people in future generations!
    • Re:Is this so wise? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Molina the Bofh (99621) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @09:54AM (#2841567) Homepage
      I saw on Discovery Channel a girl who couldn't fell no pain at all. It was born like that, some sort of rare genetic disease. Well, as she grew up, she had severe burns, had broken almost all the bones at her body and died young of complications. This way we can learn how pain helps us.
      • I saw on Discovery Channel a girl who couldn't fell no pain at all. It was born like that
        Just because she felt no pain, doesn't make her an "It".
        • Gee. Sorry for that. I was going to write something like "It was a genetic disease", but then changed the phrase and didn't correct. Well, I really didn't want to make her an "it".
          I shall pay more attention.
    • Actually thats called lepercy. Well lepersy is 2 things, really slow healing rate, and the unability to feel pain. So you tend to hit things really hard and bruise freqently, then then never heal, and eventually tear your body to shreads and have limps fall off and whatnot. There are modern medications to help with the healing part, but little can be done about the no pain, so they have to be very careful.
    • by bouvin (20404) <bouvin@cs.aCOWu.dk minus herbivore> on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @11:14AM (#2842024) Homepage
      True, pain can be a message to stop doing whatever we're doing.

      However, our pain system is severely broken in an number of aspects, and effective pain treatement would be boon to suffers of chronic pain. E.g. an arthritis patient is probably well aware of the condition, and could do without the pain. Another example would be burn victims. Morphine can only do so much, and a pain killer which would block the pain and nothing else would have huge potentials.
      • However, our pain system is severely broken in an number of aspects

        I wouldn't call it "broken" -- it is still functioning perfectly to spec. Pain is supposed to signal our body that something is wrong. If you are burned, something is obviously wrong. If you have arthritis, then your cartelage is being basically eaten away, so something is also wrong. If you tear a ligament in your knee, even if the pain is excrutiating and constant, it is a reminder to stay off that knee until they pain goes away (which might be never, which I guess means to always be careful with that knee).

        While it would certainly be nice for people who already *know* that something is wrong, who have a disease that will give them pain for the rest of their life, to have some "ultra" pain-killer, it is still overriding a basic functionality of the body. Perhaps when our body "invented" pain, it wasn't considering modern medicine that allows people with these types of chronic problems to stay alive in the first place :)
        • I wouldn't call it "broken" -- it is still functioning perfectly to spec.

          I'd say it's more of a kludge. It may meet the spec ("Have more pros than cons on average."), but it is far from an elegant solution. It would be much more useful if awareness of danger was simply placed into consciousness. But evolution is kludge central.
    • True. Pain's our personal moderator for the *degree* of stupidity: "I really needed to reach over the fire for that tool; so my skin is red, no big deal." Ouch. Big deal.

      One wonders how/if eliminating pain affects our capability for joy, that is, if pain provides a negative against which a positive emotional experience gains perspective.

      Of if eliminating pain means you're no longer able to experience any difference between, say, LOTR and a 3-hour Dick Cheney biography.
    • Three things come to mind with this topic.

      The sceen from "Terminiator (1)" with the cop telling Sara Conner that Arnold was probably high on something when he put his hand through the window, didn't feel a thing, and probably broke every bone in his hand. Hello Crackhead Theafs - see car you like, take new pain pill, wait 30 minutes, punch in window, take car. Just think, no more going to jail for having a slim-jim on you, cause you don't need it anymore.

      Ways of testing the mice. (Sorry but bad imagry comes to mind, like poking their feet or worse crushing their feet or other parts and seeing if they react.)

      The third and desired way, helping people who are extra sensitive to pain or in cronic pain due to genetics or disease. I've seen an episode of the Scientific American Fontiers show on PBS about people who need to have their feet treated every 3-4 months with extra concentrated pepper extract paste, (many time stronger than any pepper spray,) to basicly over load the pain receptors in their feet, so they shut down for a while. For this and other things like in the artical, (cancer and whatnot,) I can see a true use.
      • That first point is stupid, you don't need a pill, just a rock.

        Second, who cares about mice. Mice make excelent testers for drugs, and food for snakes. Other than that who cares.

        The third point you have makes the first two even worse.. If you think crackheads or mice are more inportant than people with real problems that can benefit from the drugs, then you should be the one that they test the drugs on.
      • >Just think, no more going to jail for having a slim-jim on you, cause you don't need it anymore.

        Actually, brass knuckles (or just about anything, including the aforementioned rock) and a leather work glove would be just fine, and you wouldn't have any effect after the fact. No blood, no broken bones.
    • fuck man, you will love this, i mean hell, not having mice bite you out of the sheer level of pain they feel from you constantly fucking their ass will sure make your nights a lot easier.
  • even better... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gCGBD (532991)
    ... would be a pain killer that could cure a broken heart ...
  • by Bonker (243350) on Tuesday January 15, 2002 @11:24AM (#2842072)
    Then my weekly trips to Madame Zora's house of punishment would be a complete waste of time and money. I *like* my pain, dammit!
  • how outrageous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DrSkwid (118965)
    so now the poor mice will be diseccted while alive

    animals are concious dammit

    they are not an IT

    I hope whoever is "inventing" this gets plenty of pain

    .
    • I agree. I have nothing against animal testing, but I am against removing the "pain gene" so that we can have a better pain killer. We don't NEED a better pain killer. What we DO NEED is better surgical techniques so that pain is reduced to a minimum before it ever occurs. While this isn't possible for arthritis patients (and people who suffer from similiar maladies), I'm sorry, but pain is nature's way of saying "Hey stupid, don't do that!"
      • "Substance P" Inhibitors.

        Substance P is the chemical your brain releases to produce the "ouch". A neurotransmitter, Similar to Seratonin, Dopamine, etc.

        I don't know if anyone has made an inhibitor for it yet - or if its even possible; im not a neuroscientist. But I can think of situations where it would be a boon.
        • How could such a powerfful pain inhibitor be a boon? I see no area of work in the world that would make no-pain a boon, except maybe war (and I think war should be as painful as possible, maybe they'll use the information to make soldiers hurt more when they're killing each other).
  • by msouth (10321)
    So, I'm guessing that this will be the end of PETA's objections to animal testing. Right? Yes?
    • So, I'm guessing that this will be the end of PETA's objections to animal testing. Right? Yes?

      That would require PETA to be rational, scientifically well informed, and intellectually honest, none of which are the case.
    • They would still suffer from fear and other forms of stress.
      • The joke was supposed to be that PETA probably wouldn't look too kindly on the production of such an animal in the first place, much less approve of using it once you have created it.
  • They die at a very young age, it's an extremely serious disorder. If you don't feel pain, when your skeleton or muscles are in a position where they are enduring pressure or other outside forces, being damaged, or otherwise, you don't adjust the problem. Therefore, the people have horrible defects caused by this - imagine sleeping completely crooked for thirty days in a row.

    Also, it's likely for them to die as young children, in all seriousness, especially in today's society, where clothes cover most of the body (and hide potential injuries) and the child will not scream in pain.
  • ...that the guy from Monty Python can finish his symphony on the "mouse-organ" without getting dragged offstage?
  • by Polo (30659)
    If you can't feel pain, you have leprosy. Then you can hurt yourself and you'll never notice
    the damage.
    • If you can't feel pain, you have leprosy.

      leprosyn.
      A chronic, mildly contagious granulomatous disease of tropical and subtropical regions, caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae, characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone, and viscera and leading to loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene, and deformation. Also called Hansen's disease.

      I don't see where leprosy is defined as not feeling pain, so I must conclude that your conclusion is invalid (I can also think of other cases for which no pain is felt that is not leprosy).
  • As others have raised, it would be quite suicidal to create a human that feels no pain. Pain is an immediate reaction to dangerous and often deadly situations.

    What's preventing someone from bleeding to death if they're so doped up they can't feel the open wound ? It's happened to PCP abusers (w00t!), who would go berzerk and ram their foot/fist/head into a wall with a sick laugh "I'll kill you, you fucking brick wall!".

    If they can't figure out how to _selectively_ discard certain types of pain, like arthritis pain or headaches, then perhaps it would be a good compromise to just reduce the pain to an unobtrusive level, or make it fade away very quickly. In that scenario, suppose you cut your finger while mutilating a head of lettuce, you would instantly feel the pain surge, warning you of the injury, but the feeling would attenuate very quickly so as to not incapacitate your nervous system and hinder your ability to react in an intelligent and timely manner.
    • I seem to recall a british documentary on the effects of not stopping bleeding. One of the examples used was a british soldier left for dead after one or two of his legs was blown off - the battlefield opinion being that he would bleed to death before medical help could arrive, but subsequent medical opinion was that if he'd ben treated to stop or staunch the bleeding, it would have been fatal. The soldier did however survive, and was interviewed in the documentary.

      The other example used was wounded US soldiers in Vietnam having a high mortality rate because medical treatment was often available in a short timeframe, and one of the procedures used was to stop the bleeding.
  • Isn't it called 'alcohal'?
  • Pain is nature's way of saying something is wrong. Without it, a person could have a heart attack and not know until they are already dead (then again if they were dead how would they know?)
  • If someone were to not feel pain, they would lack the necessary measure of self-preservation which allows us to survive. Pain is feedback that is an integral part of an organism's self-organization.

    People ran into this problem when Angeldust was popular years ago: when someone feels invulnerable, they act invulnerable, and when they act invulnerable, they soon discover that they are not, and they get severely injured. Or they die.
  • by Guppy (12314) on Wednesday January 16, 2002 @04:59AM (#2847240)
    I'm seeing a lot of "Pain is good/useful" and "Animal experimentation is bad" posts. I believe the implications of this research could be much broader.

    In the US, pain has traditionally been undertreated. The reason is that the most effective agents for chronic and severe pain, narcotics, are tightly controlled (for obvious reasons). Doctors which write more prescriptions than average quickly find themselves the object of regulatory scrutiny, while patients who ask for narcotics may be suspected of being addicts.

    In recent times, this has started to ease a little bit (especially for Cancer and terminal diseases), however, it's still very much a problem in cases where diagnosing the severity of the pain relies on the patient's own testimony (Such as for many nerve conditions), or where a chronic conditions requires long-term use of painkillers. It's also a problem for minorities and the poor, who especially tend to be undertreated.

    The writers of this Nature article have been careful to note that there are no immediate practical applications from this research -- having pain-free mice running around simply isn't all that useful. However, although there were guesses as to the function of DREAM [the protein of interest], as the article states, prior to this work "It was very unpredictable what DREAM would be doing physiologically".

    So, now what you have is a target gene and protein in hand, with which you can do things like obtain structural information, or design high-throughput in-vitro screens for drug development. The eventual goal would be something which works as a powerful painkiller, yet does not have any addictive potential -- thus allowing it to be used more freely. And even if this particular target doesn't lead to such a drug, it illuminates another part of the complex, and still poorly understood, process by which we feel pain.

Put your Nose to the Grindstone! -- Amalgamated Plastic Surgeons and Toolmakers, Ltd.

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