For anyone who suffers from chronic pain the idea of living a life without pain at all is probably something they dream about. But that's exactly the type of life that a small percentage of the population lives. Due to a mutation of a certain gene, that has recently been identified, there are a small number of people that feel virtually no pain or discomfort of any kind.
Although this might seem like a good thing, the reality is that it causes these people a lot of problems. Pain is the way your body tells you that something is wrong. When you are incapable of feeling pain then you may not realize if you have an injury, or infection, or any other serious problem. This can lead to the problem getting much worse, which can cause you further complications or even death.
While there is currently nothing that can be done for people who don't experience pain, there may be something that they can do for the rest of us. The gene PRDM12 is one of the genes which, if mutated, can cause people to live without feeling pain. What makes this particular gene of interest to scientists is that it is not associated with any other negative effects besides causing those with a mutation to feel no pain.
The idea is that there are methods that can be used to target this gene in normal people in order to effectively turn off their ability to feel pain on a temporary basis. This can be an enormously beneficial medical treatment for a lot of patients. For people who suffer a major injury being able to shut off their pain can alleviate a lot of their suffering. For people who live with chronic pain the ability to block that pain could help them greatly improve the quality of their life.
Anyone who has ever had a broken bone, or suffered any other type of significant injury will tell you that it wasn't a lot of fun. In fact, serious injuries can cause outright agony. The ability to block pain could change the way that patients are treated when they suffer a significant injury.
In an ideal scenario in the future, first responders and other emergency personnel will be trained to administer the drug that blocks this gene, which would enable patients to avoid a lot of needless suffering. For people with chronic pain, they may have to go to the doctor for injections on a regular basis, or - much like insulin is used by diabetics - they may simply inject themselves at home.