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Medical Research

Progress Made Toward A New Kind of Anesthesia

Researchers say they are drawing closer to developing a new class of anesthetics.

“While physician anesthesiologists have improved the safety of anesthesia over the years, there are still many risks associated with general anesthesia. And yet, no new anesthetics have been developed for more than 40 years,” said Roderic G. Eckenhoff, M.D., lead author of the study and professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “We are only beginning to understand the actual mechanisms that allow general anesthetics to achieve an anesthetized state, and this study is a breakthrough into that world.”

Rather than taking the traditional approach of modifying existing anesthetic drugs, Eckenhoff and fellow investigators aimed to prove that an entirely new approach would yield “completely new anesthetic structures.”

Their research identified two new anesthetic drugs that could be used on humans.

In their study, the investigators tested over 350,000 compounds for their potential to serve as anesthetic agents. They did this in collaboration with the Chemical Genomics Center of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

Among the 350,000, researchers found 2,600 compounds with potential.

“The anesthetics identified by this approach require further development before they can be considered for use in the O.R.,” said Dr. Eckenhoff. “However, the study results show that novel anesthetics do exist, and that we need not restrict ourselves to small modifications of existing drugs.”

The findings were published in the journal Anesthesiology.

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