Study Spotlight #2: FAAH, Anandamide, and chronic pain
In case you were wondering, the bliss molecule we are talking about is the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA), which was named after the Sanskrit word for bliss by the team that discovered it, which included Rafael Mechoulam in 1992.
To learn more, look at this case of a patient who felt little or no pain all her life.
Reviewing the term fatty-acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) may be helpful. FAAH is a naturally occurring enzyme that is one of the primary compounds responsible for metabolizing anandamide (AEA), thus terminating the signaling functions of this endocannabinoid.
In this curious case, an international team of researchers describes a 60-year-old woman who felt little or no pain (even when injured by burns or cuts), experienced rapid wound healing, and experienced no anxiety or depression. The subsequent tests revealed the patient lacked the gene to make FAAH resulting in significantly higher levels of AEA, presumed responsible for her odd presentations. As such, and with additional evidence from hundreds of other studies that examined AEA’s therapeutic potential, it becomes easier to understand the far-reaching therapeutic potential of the bliss molecule, especially in the treatment context of chronic pain and psychiatric disorders.
Habib AM, Okorokov AL, Hill MN, Bras JT, Lee MC, Li S, Gossage SJ, van Drimmelen M, Morena M, Houlden H, Ramirez JD, Bennett DLH, Srivastava D, Cox JJ. Microdeletion in a FAAH pseudogene identified in a patient with high anandamide concentrations and pain insensitivity. Br J Anaesth. 2019 Aug;123(2):e249-e253.