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Selective perception

Life Science

Comprising 2% of the global population, they are something of a rarity. Red-haired people.

In summer their skin may – just – take on a note of latte macchiato. This is due to pigment-producing skin cells – so-called melanocytes.

In redheads these cells are missing a type of receptor which produces dark pigments. Now experiments conducted on mice at Massachusetts General Hospital have uncovered an additional finding.

The missing receptor function means that the hormones normally responsible for the blocking or heightening of pain are fewer in number.

Since all bodies produce additional molecules that activate receptors involved in blocking pain, the net result is that redheads perceive less pain.

A development that could prove vital for those undergoing pain treatments.

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