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The secret of anesthesia: for 170 years, doctors have not known the principles of general anesthesia

The secret of anesthesia

For more than 100 years, medicine has been exposing patients to general anesthesia to perform a huge number of different operations. Today, that method is used around the world tens of thousands of times daily. But despite the prevalence of the use of general anesthesia, the scientists still do not have a full explanation of it. For 170 years, anesthesia has been considered as a big mystery.

The researchers from Monash University believe that science does not have a direct answer about how it works. But it does not stop putting forward various hypotheses. After all, using anesthesia, the doctors disable a person for a short time. And it is important to know what consequences that procedure can have for the body.


And what happens during anesthesia at a deep biological level, especially at the moment when a person wakes up during an operation. As early as 1847, the theory of lipids was advanced. In its case, anesthesia acts on the fat - or lipid - membranes of the brain cells, inhibiting the normal activity of the neurons. But recently, that theory has lost its relevance in favor of other assumptions. Many of them are based on the interaction of certain brain receptors with drugs that lead to short-term loss of consciousness.

The researchers from all around the world have identified certain types of brain receptors and intracellular mechanisms that create a state of reversible hypnosis. It allowed us to come closer to understanding the mechanism of action of general anesthetics, but much is still hidden from the scientists.

For example, doctors were unsure about the effects of general anesthesia on the ion channels of cell membranes. A recent study showed that although there is such an effect, there are intermediate steps involving lipids. And that information suggests that the mechanism based on the effect on receptors is actually more complex.


Based on the theory of lipids, the scientists believed that all anesthetics work the same at the molecular level. But the modern medicine has different forms of anesthesia, and they have completely different molecular structures.

All mechanisms have a single end product - a brief shutdown of consciousness, and it is suitable for each case of using anesetics with different molecular structures. But why that is happening, the scientists are guessing.