Family 'do not feel pain'

A Life Without Pain: Meet the Marsili Family, an Italian Brood with an Unusually High Threshold to Pain


Most people would give anything for a life without pain. But you know what they say, be careful what you wish for; after all, not everything that sounds good is actually advantageous and beneficial. You might have not realized it yet, but a life without pain is like a car without headlights. Without anything to help you spot anything unusual and dangerous on the road, your car could end up crashing a rolling over.

The sensation of pain is how your body lets you know that it is in need of extra attention. The second we feel even the slightest amount of pain, we immediately look for the cause to prevent it from causing further discomfort, it saves us from having to endure more damage. For example, a sore throat could be a sign of a dangerous infection. So before anything becomes worse, you consult your doctor to work on ways to treat it.

But for this family, an unusual condition has prompted their bodies to be insensitive to pain. Their condition is so rare, the syndrome was eventually named after the family themselves.

The Marsili Family Baffles Scientists with Their High Pain Tolerance

Scientists have identified a genetic mutation that effectively negates the feeling of pain, they’ve called it the Marsili pain syndrome.

The condition was believed to have been first observed in the Marsili family, an Italian brood that made headlines because of their unusual pain threshold. The family matriarch, Letizia Marsili, and her mothers, two sons, sister, and niece all suffer from the strange yet fascinating affliction.

In one occasion, Letizia had fractured her shoulder blade while skiing. She continued to ski throughout the afternoon but needed to be rushed to the hospital the following day because her fingers started to tingle.

“From day to day we live a very normal life, perhaps better than the rest of the population, because we very rarely get unwell and we hardly feel any pain,” said Letizia.

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“However, in truth, we do feel pain, the perception of pain, but this only lasts for a few seconds.”

Pain, whether severe or slight or just bearable, is an everyday occurrence for most people. But for the Marsilis, the lack of it is starting to affect their lives. Scientists are scrambling to assist the family in understanding their condition while hoping to get some insight on their own. Researchers believe that if they can locate the gene responsible for their insensitivity, they could help others dealing with chronic pain.

“Genetic analysis of a human family with Marsili syndrome, a rare and perhaps unique inherited pain insensitive phenotype, and mouse modeling have shown ZFHX2 as a critical gene for normal pain perception,” the researchers wrote in the recently published study the journal Brain.

There’s still a lot of research to conduct with ZFHX2 and its role in pain signaling. But the Marsilis are definitely in no rush. When asked by researchers if they want to completely reverse their condition, the family were quick to give a collective no.

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