New study finds the sense of proprioception of a person has been linked to a gene called PIEZO2
We all know about the sense of taste, smell, vision, hearing and touch, but there is another lesser known sense in humans we don’t usually know about. For all of you who don’t know about the sixth sense then let us tell you it is the sense described as awareness of one’s body in space.
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A new study is suggesting the sense also known as proprioception has a genetic basis. The gene in question is called PIEZO2.
Proprioception can be better understood by use of an example where a police officer asks a drunken person to touch the tip of their finger to their nose. The officer is in fact determining the person’s sixth sense.
Research carried out in mice has suggested that the sixth sense is dependent upon a gene known as PIEZO2. The scientists claim the gene PIEZO2 is responsible for producing the "mechanosensitive" proteins which allows the body to sense the force behind touch and the ability to recognize where body parts lay.
“Our study highlights the critical importance of PIEZO2 and the senses it controls in our daily lives,” said Carsten G. Bönnemann, M.D., senior investigator at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and a co-leader of the study.
“The results establish that PIEZO2 is a touch and proprioception gene in humans. Understanding its role in these senses may provide clues to a variety of neurological disorders.”
The research further probed this issue when they observed the genetic effect of a PIEZO2 mutation in two human subjects. The research carried out by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the subjects to perform several tests relating to movement and balance. Both of the subjects could not walk properly when blindfolded, compared to people who don’t have the mutation.
The subjects also had more difficulty in feeling the vibrations from a buzzing tuning fork, even if it was placed right next to their skin. Both patients with the PIEZO2 mutation were deemed "touch-blind" by the scientists since their neurons could not detect touch or limb movements.
The findings of this research got published on September 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine.