Saturday, July 21, 2007

Understanding anaesthetics better

One of my friends is an anaesthetic doctor, who works in hospitals all over Europe. My friendship with him has resulted in at least two pieces of worrysome knowledge. One is, how bad certain countries' hospital systems really are. The other one is how dangerous anaesthetics really is (don't worry, in modern hospitals, it's pretty risk-free).

One of the reasons why anaesthetics are so dangerous is because of the lack of knowledge about how they works on humans. We know that a certain amount will knock someone out, but individual reactions are very varied - that's why people are observed pretty closed while under anaesthetia. This is generally done with hi-tech equipment these days, which is why it's pretty much risk-free in modern hospitals - not so in countries/hopsitals with less than state of the art equipment.

In ScienceDaily there is some good news related to this.

Scientists A Step Closer To Understanding How Anaesthetics Work In The Brain

An important clue to how anaesthetics work on the human body has been provided by the discovery of a molecular feature common to both the human brain and the great pond snail nervous system, scientists now report. Researchers hope that the discovery of what makes a particular protein in the brain sensitive to anaesthetics could lead to the development of new anaesthetics with fewer side effects.

This is great news, as the article makes clear.

This kind of research, explains Professor Franks, is important because understanding exactly how anaesthetics work may pave the way for the development of a new generation of anaesthetics which solely affect specific anaesthetic targets, which could potentially reduce the risks and side effects associated with current anaesthetics.

"At the moment, anaesthetics have many unwanted side-effects on the human body such as nausea and effects on the heart. This is because our current drugs are relatively non-selective and bind to several different targets in the body. A better understanding of how anaesthetics exert their desirable effects could lead to much more specific, targeted alternatives being developed, which could greatly reduce these problems," he said.

Hopefully this will create the desired break-through in the development of anaesthetics.

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