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Redheads don't feel your pain

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Scientists say redheaded women have a gene mutation that makes them less susceptible to pain - and that the discovery could lead to the development of new anesthetics.

The study was conducted by the Medical Research Council in England using "redhead" mice with a similar mutation.

The mice, like their human counterparts, also have an unusual ability to withstand discomfort.

"The nature of it is still being worked out, but it does appear that redheads . . . require less anesthetic to block out certain pains," Prof. Ian Jackson told London's Daily Mail.

The research grew out of studies conducted at Montreal's McGill University, where scientists found a mutant version of a gene, called melanocortin-1, is linked to ginger hair and fair skin.

While testing the painkilling drug pentazocine, McGill researchers found the same gene responsible for red hair also plays a role in the body's natural pain-easing system - but only in women.

Doctors then gave out artificial painkillers, and found that the anesthetic effect was three times greater for red-haired women than for blondes and brunettes - or men.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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