Study Reveals How Paracetamol Works, Could Lead to Safer Pain Medication

Researchers at King's College London have discovered that a protein called TRPA1, found on the surface of nerve cells, is the molecule needed for common analgesic paracetamol to relieve pain, according to a news release.

Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen in the U.S. and Asia, has been used as a painkiller since the 1950s, but how it actually relieved pain was unknown.

Researchers used a 'hot plate' test in mice to determine how long it takes for a mouse to remove its paw from a hot surface. When given paracetamol, mice took longer to remove their paws. Researchers performed the test when the TRPA1 protein was not present, and paracetamol lost its analgesic effect.

However, paracetamol does not activate TRPA1 itself but forms a break-down product called NAPQI in the spinal cord and the liver that activates the protein. Researchers think NAPQI formation in the liver is responsible for the toxic side effects seen following overdoses. Researchers also found other non-toxic compounds that can activate TPRA1 in the spinal cord when injected into mice. They hope this discovery will lead to less harmful analgesics.

Related Articles on Pain Management:
Study: Opioids Not Effective Treatment for Sciatica
Titanium Debris from Artificial Joints May Trigger Painful Inflammation
More Than One Third of Women With Breast Cancer Live With Pain

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