Sunday, March 18, 2007

WTF? of the Week

The lead paragraph from
Nerves transmit sound waves through your body, not electrical pulses, according to a controversial new study that tries to explain the longstanding mystery of how anesthetics work.

Anesthetics has a longstanding mystery??  WTF??  I always thought that stuff was pretty f-ing scary, but now they’re saying they don’t even know how it works?

Read on:
Oddly, scientists don't understand exactly what happens when a patient is anesthetized. While the goal of an anesthetic is to prevent the brain from feeling pain, the drugs can affect a patient's heart rate and breathing. So a better understanding of how it all works would allow development of better drugs.

Researchers do know that the proper doses of ether, laughing gas, chloroform and other anesthetics are all based on their solubility in olive oil. But how the nerves are turned off is a mystery.

I had no idea.  I always thought that at least someone knew how this shit works.  And now I feel like we’re living in the dark ages.  We don’t know anything.  We’re just stumbling around in the dark hoping that everything works out, but we don’t even understand some of the most basic sciences that we rely upon on a daily basis.  Great.

And what’s the breakthrough?
If a nerve is to be able to transport sound pulses, they say, then the melting point of its membrane must be close to body temperature. Anesthetics change the melting point so that sound pulses can't propagate, they conclude. Nerves are put on stand-by and a patient doesn't feel the knife slicing into his body.

Put on stand-by??  That all sounds pretty sketchy.  Not that I’m saying I’d do without anesthetics if I needed them.  But I’d sure like for people to get a big clue before I ever do.

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