MGH Researchers Push to Reduce Pain
This Boston Globe piece is worth reading, even if only for the wonderful historical parallels: anesthesia was invented at Mass General Hospital in 1846, and more than 150 years later, researchers there are still working to make it better.
From Colin Nickerson's story:
Scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital today described a new "targeted" approach to anesthesia that appears to totally block pain neurons, but doesn't cause the numbness or partial paralysis that is the unwelcome side-effect of anesthesia used for surgery performed on conscious patients.
If approved for use in humans, the method could dramatically ease the trial of giving birth -- by sparing women pain while allowing them to physically participate in labor. It could also diminish the trauma of knee surgery, for instance, or the discomfort of getting one's molars drilled. Not only would there be no "ouch," there would be none of the sickening wooziness or loss of motor control that comes from standard forms of "local" anesthesia.
Interesting tidbit: their approach relied in part on capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chili peppers hot.