Scientists at King’s College London from the Wolfson Centre
for the Age-Related Diseases department have
finally discovered the mechanisms for paracetamol, leading to the possible production
of less harmful painkillers in the future.
Paracetamol is the most common drug worldwide that is used to
treat fever and pain. It was first sold in the UK under the name `Panadol` in
1956 as 500mg tablets and around 6,300 tonnes of paracetamol were sold on a yearly
basis. However, the understanding of how paracetamol is used to treat pain was
unknown until today.
A `team of scientists` led by Professor Stuart Bevan have
identified a key ion channel, known as a transient receptor potential (TRPA1),
which is located on the plasma membrane of animal cells. They recognized `TRPA1`
as an essential channel in the active functioning of paracetamols.
Scientists conducted an experiment known as the `hot-plate
test` to determine the time taken for the mice, who were given paracetamol, to
remove their paws from the hot surface. This result concludes that the use of paracetamol
increases the time taken for the mice to remove their paws from the surface.
Therefore, this implies that paracetamol relieves some pain in mice.
Furthermore, another hot-plate test was carried out in mice but in this case,
they were given paracetamols with no TRPA1 present. As a result, the mice
quickly lifted their paws from the hot plate implying that these paracetamols
had no pain-killing effect. This suggests that the TRPA1 protein is essential
in inducing the painkilling effect of paracetamols.
Professor Stuart Bevan from KCL stated that `These results
are intriguing as previous studies have shown that TRPA1 channel produces pain
and it is susceptible to acrid chemicals, for example, the burning sensation
you feel on your tongue after eating chilli peppers known as capsaicin (TRPV1)
and allyl isothiocyanate, a compound
causing the pungent odour, found in wasabi and mustard (TRPA1) `.
this concludes that TRPA1 acts as the main mechanism for pain-killing in paracetamols.
Future work is now needed to produce pain-killing drugs with low side effects,
for instance, preventing gastrointestinal problems.