New research involving the anesthetic drug tied to Michael Jackson's death has unraveled the mystery of how it induces a pain-free, sleep-like state — findings that could pave the way to better sedatives that reduce the risks of surgery.
Scientists from the Imperial College London and Washington University School of Medicine have identified how propofol acts on a molecular level in the brain to induce sleep.
General anesthetics like propofol are given to tens of millions of people every year to sedate them while undergoing surgery.
"The job of the skilled anesthetist is so important because in addition to the desirable effects of anesthetics which make surgery possible, current anesthetics can have unwanted effects on the heart, on blood pressure, and can also interfere with breathing during surgery," said researcher Nick Franks, with the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London.
"Whilst propofol is the best anesthetic we have today, it is important for patient safety that we come up with new versions of the drug that work just as well or better as anesthetics, but have fewer or less dangerous side effects."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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