December 14, 2006


The boy who could walk on hot coals (Mail & Guardian, 14 December 2006)

The life and death of a young street performer from Pakistan who could walk on hot coals and drive knives through his arms without flinching has led scientists to a genetic discovery that could revolutionise the treatment of pain.

Scientists at Cambridge University began studying the child to understand why he was unable to feel pain, but was otherwise completely healthy. He died shortly before his 14th birthday, from injuries sustained after jumping off a roof while playing with friends.

The scientists broadened their investigation to three families related to the child and found that none had experienced pain at any time in their lives. All six family members had bruises and cuts and most had fractured bones. Two were missing the front third of their tongues after biting themselves in childhood.

The way in which the young street performer died also highlighted the importance of pain as a built-in defence mechanism to stop people damaging themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2006 2:33 PM

They're natural born scanners, as in the "Cordwainer Smith" story "Scanners Live in Vain."

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at December 14, 2006 4:09 PM
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