Kambiz here. I’m about to start my second term of medical school, which is both exciting and nerve racking. In my summer readings, I came across a medical and anthropological tidbit today that caught my attention: redheads have a lower tolerance for pain. I didn’t know that. Did you?
Skin pigmentation is one of my favorite topics. We know from previous posts that the melanocortin-1 receptor gene or MC1R affects melanin production and ultimately skin and hair phenotypes. Redheads carry a variant of MC1R which produces a different pigment, called pheomelanin, resulting in freckles, fair skin and ginger hair.
How MC1R receptors affect pain is another story though, one that is not well understood. Aside from the skin MC1R is also expressed in the brain. It could be possible that the redhead allelic variant of the MC1R receptors don’t quite receive the signal transduction of pain reception in the same manner as those with the wildtype receptor. I don’t think I’m gonna become an anthesthesiologist but as someone interested in human genetic variation it is good to acknowledge some phenotypes affect how medicine is delivered. ;-)
Anyways, I don’t have much else to add to this other than to share some interesting information and to let you all know I’m alive but will be crawling under a rock again. Till next time.