Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
July 21, 2007
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
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 say. 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.

The scientists hope that their discovery will pave the way for new more targeted anaesthetics with fewer side effects such as nausea.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

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.

Related Articles


The study focuses on a particular protein found in neurons in the brain, known as a potassium channel, which stabilises and regulates the voltage across the membrane of the neuron. Communication between the millions of neurons in the brain -- which is the basis of human consciousness and perception, including perception of pain - involves neurons sending nerve impulses to other neurons.

In order for this to happen, the stabilising action of the potassium channel has to be overcome. Earlier studies on great pond snails by the same team identified that anaesthetics seemed to selectively enhance the regulating action of the potassium channel, preventing the neuron from firing at all -- meaning the neuron was effectively anaesthetised.

The new research has identified a specific amino acid in the potassium channel which, when mutated, blocks anaesthetic activation. Lead author, Biophysics Professor Nick Franks from Imperial College London, explains how this will allow the importance of the potassium channel in anaesthetic action to be established:

"We've known for over 20 years now that these potassium channels in the human brain may be important anaesthetic targets. However, until now, we've had no direct way to test this idea. Because a single mutation can block the effects of anaesthetics on this potassium channel without affecting it in any other way, it could be introduced into mice to see if they also become insensitive to anaesthetics. If they do, then this establishes the channel as a key target."

The group carried out their new study, published in the 20 July issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, by cloning the potassium channel from a great pond snail and then making a series of chimeric channels -- part snail and part human. The chimeras were used to identify the location of the precise amino acid to which the anaesthetic binds on the potassium channel, giving the team a clearer picture than ever before of the precise mechanism by which anaesthetics work.

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Scientists A Step Closer To Understanding How Anaesthetics Work In The Brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070719100226.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2007, July 21). Scientists A Step Closer To Understanding How Anaesthetics Work In The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070719100226.htm
Imperial College London. "Scientists A Step Closer To Understanding How Anaesthetics Work In The Brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070719100226.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins