Capsaicin from chili peppers may work as potent dental anesthetic

April 14, 2008
Chemical could provide localized numbness without the loss of muscle control.


An injection that combines an ingredient from chili peppers and a local anesthetic may provide localized numbness without the loss of muscle control caused by traditional anesthetics such as Novocaine (procaine), according to a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Nature.

Researchers had previously determined that a chemical called QX-314 can effectively deactivate the nerve cells responsible for detecting pain, without affecting the nerve cells that control motion or other kinds of sensation. But QX-314 only works from the inside of the cells, and is not capable of crossing the cell barrier on its own.

More recently, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco discovered that capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers hot, can bind to a certain protein on the outside of pain-sensing nerve cells. When it does so, it opens a small passage into the interior of the cell.

To test whether this passage is large enough to allow the entry of QX-314, Harvard Medical School researchers injected cultures of rat nerve cells with first capsaicin and then QX-314. They found that the signals from pain-sensing cells dropped to an extent suggesting the absence of pain.

The researchers then injected the combination into the paws of rats, then placed those paws onto heated surfaces. While non-injected rats felt pain, the injected rats did not object to any of the heat levels tested.

Finally, the researchers injected the cocktail into some of the rats' sciatic nerves--the nerve which is responsible for sensation in the lower part of the body. They then poked the animals with nylon probes with varying degrees of force. Half of the injected rats did not react to even the strongest blow. The anesthetic effects of the cocktail appeared to last for four hours.

Researchers are currently working on ways to get around the pain and irritation that capsaicin causes to mammalian tissue.

For more information, go to NaturalNews.

To read more about anesthetics, go to anesthetics.

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