Why do redheads have different pain thresholds


  • The melanocortin receptor acts on molecules that affect pain perception.
  • In people with red hair, this receptor is inhibited, which automatically raises the pain threshold.
  • These receptors are also involved in tanning and explain the reason for a lower tan.

Redheads are less sensitive to pain. Des chercheurs américains du Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggèrent que cette particularité serait causée par la establishment d’une mutation sur le récepteur de la mélanocortine-1 (MC1R) présent sur les cellules pigmentaires la peau qui est impliqué dans la perception de Pain. The results are presented in a scientific article published April 2 in the journal Science Advances.

Decryption mechanism

Researchers tested pain thresholds in red-haired mice that had a mutation in the melanocortin receptor 1. They discovered that without this function, the pain threshold appears higher. This is because the melanocytes in the skin, the melanocytes, of the animals secrete lower levels of a molecule called POMC – for proopiomelanocortin. This molecule plays an important role in pain sensitivity because it helps maintain a balance between opioid receptors that suppress pain and melanocortin receptors that improve pain perception. Therefore, lower levels of POMC lead to more signals reaching the opioid receptor, which automatically raises the pain threshold.

These findings describe the underlying mechanism of previous evidence indicating varying pain thresholds depending on skin color.David Fisher, lead author of the study, explains. An understanding of this mechanism validates this previous evidence and the valuable recognition of medical staff when caring for patients with varying sensitivity to pain.. These results, the researchers add, allow the design of new drugs that inhibit melanocortin receptors that are involved in pain detection.

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These receptors also explain tanning

The inability of red-haired people to darken or darken their skin tone is also attributed to inactive variants of melanocortin receptors. This receptor is responsible for converting the production of yellow and red melanin into brown and black melanin in melanocytes.

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