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Biotech Science

Adding Capsaicin Improves Anesthetic Treatment 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the so-hot-it's-numb dept.
eldavojohn writes "It's no secret what capsaicin, the fiery molecule of peppers, does to cell walls. In fact, it's now being used to open cells up to local anesthetics. Combine it with a new drug that works only from the insides of cells and you have a great system for relieving pain. From the article, 'QX-314 is known to reduce the activity of pain-sensing neurons in the nervous system and theoretically heighten pain thresholds. But there's a catch: Researchers found that "it wouldn't work from outside a nerve cell but it would work if you could get it inside," says Bruce Bean, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the new study."
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Adding Capsaicin Improves Anesthetic Treatment

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  • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:19AM (#20847671)
    ...but wouldn't that burn like hell?
    • Re:Just a thought... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by wamerocity (1106155) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:50AM (#20847887) Journal
      I actually was reading an article about capsaicin (which is also the active ingredient in pepper spray, hence the name). One doctor once recommended that oxycontin and other opiates should have capsaicin put into the pills. People who swallowed it wouldn't taste anything different, but people who take the drugs and chop them up into a powder and then snort it have a really special surprise in store for them, similar to what this guy did with wasabi. [youtube.com]

      I'd guess people would only make that mistake once though.

      • by justin12345 (846440) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:42AM (#20848507)
        Sounds like a plan... except for one thing. Capsaicin come out just as hot as it goes in. Add to that the constipation that opiates cause and you are talking about an excruciating bowel movement.
        • by Joe Tie. (567096)
          That's the one thing I hate about sitting down with a tub of spicy whatever. It's like a pepper hangover.
        • by Paul Jakma (2677)
          Capsaicin come out just as hot as it goes in.

          Cause your not digesting it. Presumably because your gastro-intestinal tract isn't accustomed to it and is trying to expel it ASAP.

          Keep eating chili and this stops happening pretty quickly, and you can start to enjoy the chili high.

          (I don't think chili is an opiate though? Never heard that before, nor has wikipædia, AFAICT).

          • by zobier (585066)

            (I don't think chili is an opiate though? Never heard that before, nor has wikipædia, AFAICT).
            If you re-read the GP post you will see that some physicians were recommending adding it to drugs as a deterrent to people taking them in ways they don't want them too (e.g. snorting, injecting) like a kind of DRM (without the D).
            PS: It's Wikipedia!
      • by Joe Tie. (567096)
        I'd guess people would only make that mistake once though.

        I think you're underestimating what addicts will do for their drug of choice.
        • by adatepej (1154117) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @04:27AM (#20849009)
          Yeah, those "addicts" out there will do a bit for their drug of choice, but they're not going to snort some sadistically formulated pill, if that's what you're thinking.

          They're just going to take whatever other prescription opiate is most available at the time. And others will just find a way around capsaicin and any other measure devised by those who'd waste their talents devising ways of preventing other people from taking pills of their own volition.

          It's a war that can't be won, nor does it deserve to be. It's wrong-headed and truly hateful towards freedom.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MttJocy (873799)

            I can just see people crushing them up and putting them into a gel cap or something, would still defeat the time release mechanism if any in the tablet and opioid are generally plenty active enough orally (granted not as quick to take effect as insufflation but would still work).

            When will those coming up with all these ideas lean that nothing is going to stop people who willingly choose to enjoy drugs, every method they have come up with has ultimately been defeated in time, from messing with the pharmace

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by adatepej (1154117)
        Brilliant idea. "Let's turn our pharmaceuticals into weapons in the war on drugs."

        Why do I have to unnecessarily swallow capsaicin everytime I take a pill? Oh, so we can make somebody else's nose sting.

        That'll put a big dent in drug use.
      • by KKlaus (1012919) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @04:44AM (#20849059)
        Uh... isn't that a violation of the Hippocratic oath? And thank god booby trapping is still considered shameful and unamerican. Sheesh.
        • by KKlaus (1012919)
          and just to add to that, I'm all for making drugs more difficult to abuse (along the lines of putting S2O in racing N2O), but can we be a little less malicious about it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stickerboy (61554)
          Uh... isn't that a violation of the Hippocratic oath? And thank god booby trapping is still considered shameful and unamerican. Sheesh.

          Not at all. Why do you think Vicodin, Lortab, Percocet etc. contain acetaminophen? It's not for the pain relief - the opiates do a hell of a job for that. It's to give the drugs a maximum a person can take per time period before they deplete their glutathione and fry their liver.

          Some opiate seekers understand this but OD on them anyways.
      • by vorpal22 (114901) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @07:54AM (#20849893) Homepage Journal
        As someone who currently has to take Oxycontin several times a day for pain management due to severe Crohn's Disease, this really would eliminate Oxycontin as a pain relief option for me; I *love love love* chilli peppers (my passion is studying Thai cooking), but when I'm flaring, there is no way that my body can tolerate them even in small quantities and they will make me violently ill. My intestines would resemble a minefield and I would have to camp out next to the bathroom, as the capsaicin would negate the pleasant, constipating side effect of the oxycodone (a huge boon for me).

        There has also been a lot of talk in putting opioid antagonists in Oxycontin (i.e. naloxone or naltrexone) to negate the oxycodone's effects when people chew / smash the pills, but there are also inherent problems with this approach (it can induce immediate drug withdrawal in those with dependency, e.g. me).

        I would be very surprised if there was a good chemical solution to this problem that didn't come with a host of problems of its own.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        One doctor once recommended that oxycontin and other opiates should have capsaicin put into the pills. People who swallowed it wouldn't taste anything different, but people who take the drugs and chop them up into a powder and then snort it have a really special surprise in store for them.

        I can picture Rush Limbaugh writhing around in pain on the 8th hole at Pebble Beach, while Dick Cheney and O.J. Simpson stand around laughing at him.

        Thank you for putting that image in my head.

    • ...is another person's terrorist attack [bbc.co.uk]
    • by Max Littlemore (1001285) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:29AM (#20848099)

      A similar thought occurred to me when I read ths summary.

      Although I took it a bit further into the apparent repetition of certain features in nature. For example, when I grew up we had jumping ants with a really nasty sting that always lived near a plant which was a perfect anditote to the sting, and stinging trees always lived near their antidote, etc.

      I digress. The initial thought was that cloves make a good local anesthetic for dental problems, but they burn like hell when you first chew them until the anesthetic kicks in. I'm wondering whether the mechanism that creates the burning sensation is similar to the burning of chili and whether they too open cell walls? Anyone have any insight into this?

    • Not if you quickly administer a pain killer as in the example? (joke).

      Seriously though, I'm pretty sure there's something more too it. Probably something that would warrant reading the article. Just a guess.
    • by davidsyes (765062)
      Introducing the NHEUUW QX-314? Burns rubber like hell at 400 h.p., and for qualified buyers, a free barrel of Capsaicin...
  • Cell walls? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Atmchicago (555403) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:20AM (#20847677) Homepage

    Mammalian cells have no cell walls. Do they mean plasma membrane? This is basic biology, guys, please get your facts straight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sam_handelman (519767)
      <ACCENT="CHEEZY ITALIAN">That's-a-spicy pain-a-pill.</ACCENT>

        Seriously, mod parent up.
    • Re:Cell walls? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ragingmime (636249) <ragingmime&yahoo,com> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:12AM (#20848001) Homepage
      It's no secret what capsaicin, the fiery molecule of peppers, does to cell walls.

      Actually, I've studied cell biology and I have no idea what capscaicin does to cell walls (or even plasma membranes.) Come to think of it, chili pepper cells have walls, and capsaicin doesn't seem do anything to them. So maybe it is a secret after all.
      • Re:Cell walls? (Score:5, Informative)

        by csubi (950112) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @07:16AM (#20849721)
        Not a secret - capsaicin opens the Vanilloid Receptor 1, also known as TRPV1, when binding. So it does "open up" the cell membrane but these openings are quite specific and small, the open VR1 will mostly let through hydrated Ca2+ ions.
        And not all cells express the VR1 - it is mostly nerve cells responsible for transmitting signals for inflammatory and neuropathic pain and epithelial cells like the skin lining our mouths.
        Unlucky for those who like to feel their mouth burn when eating a good chili con carne(like me), the receptor is also expressed in the cells of the anal region - hence the burning feeling in the butt, when going to crap 1-2 days after eating the hot dish...:)
        Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRPV1 [wikipedia.org]
    • Re:Cell walls? (Score:5, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:36AM (#20848135) Journal
      correct, the plasma membrane is studded with a number of receptors, ion channels and signalling compounds- this in particular seems to use capsacian as a "key" to allow the second compound through so that it can work. the plasma membrane being semipermeable as it is, does act somewhat like a wall- a barrier that maintains a chemical gradient/controlled intracellular environment. an all too common mistake on their part.
    • by dr_d_19 (206418)
      This is the No Fact Zone. You must be new here.
    • by Fred_A (10934)

      Mammalian cells have no cell walls. Do they mean plasma membrane? This is basic biology, guys, please get your facts straight.

      It's a pill for plants, RTFA ! (no I didn't read it either)
    • by nanoakron (234907)
      Never mind the fact that existing local anaesthetic molecules also work by blocking the inner aspect of the voltage gated sodium channel.
    • ...or does "plasma membrane" sound like Trek technobabble?

      "The plasma membrane's become completely unstable, Captain! If we don't shut down the engines, they'll blow the ship apart!"

      Chris Mattern
  • Terrible Write Up (Score:5, Informative)

    by headhot (137860) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:29AM (#20847723) Homepage
    Well the Write Up didn't make any sense so I read the link. Here is the deal.
    1. QX-314 block pain neurons. It doesnt block other neurons for heat, pressure, ect.
    2. QX-314 only works if you can get it inside the neuron cell itself.
    3. Capsaicin opens a channel on only pain neurons that will let QX-314 through.

    So, using Capsaicin and QX-314 together, you can block pain but no other senses.

    • by FlatCatInASlatVat (828700) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:07AM (#20847981)
      Close, but not quite:

      1. QX-314 blocks all neurons.
      2. QX-314 only works if you can get it inside the neuron cell itself.
      3. Capsaicin opens a channel on only pain neurons that will let QX-314 through.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)
        Any way you slice it, this is bad news for masochists.
        • by megaditto (982598)
          I don't know about that. Someone like that goatse guy just had to have been using some of that lidocaine stuff.

          Overall, this new capsaicin/lidocaine EthBr mixture could be good news for the guys that enjoy disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis.
        • I wonder how it fairs against that pain ray [wikipedia.org] that was on here a while ago.
        • by zobier (585066)

          Any way you slice it, this is bad news for masochists.
          I don't know, I would have thought there would be some masochists that would welcome a bit of slicing.
  • by User 956 (568564) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:38AM (#20847779) Homepage
    From the article, 'QX-314 is known to reduce the activity of pain-sensing neurons in the nervous system and theoretically heighten pain thresholds.

    Ah, yes, much like watching American Idol.
  • by anandamide (86527) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:39AM (#20847787)
    Thai Food and Beer.
  • by jacobcaz (91509) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:40AM (#20847795) Homepage
    I want to see an anethetic/capiscum hot sauce. So you get a brief busrt of fiery goodness, then soothing numbness follows.

    "Why yes, I will have my buffalo wings in the Icy Hot-n-blazin' sauce please!"

    • by teebob21 (947095)

      It already exists.

      Visit Alice Cooper's Town [alicecooperstown.com] in Phoenix, AZ [google.com] if you ever get the chance. They serve Wings of Mass Destruction, the hottest wings I've ever eaten (and I love HOT wings). An order is a dozen wings. The first one makes your mouth and throat burn, the second one makes you want to die. If you make it that far, you're in the clear. At this point, your taste buds are so thrashed that you won't taste your meal. That's a pity, because their 1/2 pound Pepper Jack Cheeseburger is awesome. I only tasted

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        But how was the exit scenario?
        • by teebob21 (947095)
          Not bad at all.

          Capsaicin typically only causes lower bowel irritation if improperly digested in the upper GI. My constitution seems to handle the wings just fine.
      • Your brain produces endorphins in response to eating spicy food. This is why spice seems to stop hurting after a bit. This is also why pepperheads, like myself, eat peppers: the endorphin rush is enjoyable independently from the taste of the pepper (which can also be good, of course.) I eat red savina Habaneros plain. I want to try a Bhut Jolokia, but no one in my area sells them.
        • by teebob21 (947095)
          Actually, in addition to the endorphins, neurons exposed to capsaicin fire repeatedly until they exhaust their supply of neurotransmitters. They continue to fire even when depleted due to the neurotoxic effect of the substance, but no sensation is transmitted. The effect can even damage or kill neurons [berkeley.edu] with excessive exposure, making capsaicin a "double-edged sword" in medicinal use.
    • I want to see an anethetic/capiscum hot sauce. So you get a brief busrt of fiery goodness, then soothing numbness follows.

      "Why yes, I will have my buffalo wings in the Icy Hot-n-blazin' sauce please!"

      Such a thing almost exists. Chinese Sichuan pepper [wikipedia.org] has a numbing effect, and it is often combined with chilli in Chinese cuisine. I have it all the time.
  • It could land you in a detention [bbc.co.uk] cell.
  • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @12:50AM (#20847889) Homepage Journal

    It helps metabolize fat, helps with prostrate issues and a bunch of other things as well...

    It can be taken in pill form (for those who dont like eating red hot chili peppers) which is good considering some of its benefits require moderate to large doses.

    When combined with other spices such as garlic and cinnamon, the results in numerous areas are quite good, and quite nice... (adding to the list above better sugar absorption, insulin creation, appetite suppression, thermogenic fat burning without lean muscle mass loss, pain relief, sinusitus relief and a LOT more)

    Interestingly none of this is news... it's ALL ancient news - that the pharmaceutical companie$ dont want people to know... a nice spicy/sweet bowl of chili (made with just a tiny pinch of cinnamon, a bunch of chili powder, and some garlic) each day (or substitute with a different food that those ingredients can be put in from a steak sauce to you name it) and you've eliminated billions of dollars in income for related chemically created products from the pharm companies - and you have also eliminated the side effects.

    • by teebob21 (947095) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:30AM (#20848103) Journal

      Excluding my closet addition to hot wings, I've been enjoying the benefits of capsicum for a few years now. I make a tincture of capsicum very similar to this one, listed in the 1918 USP Dispensary [henriettesherbal.com].

      I use 15 fresh habanero peppers and 1 quart of the cheapest 90+ proof vodka I can find. Put them in a mason jar, seal TIGHTLY, and let sit for 4-6 months. Pour off the liquid and discard the peppers (or eat them, I guess, if you're insane). Store the tincture in the freezer. It should remain liquid even at 0 degrees or below due to the alcohol. That is why I use 90+ proof. Administer 1 ounce every few days. You HAVE to shoot it. The vodka should be super cold when you drink it, so the burn from the capsicum is minimized by the temperature and the quick drinking. I always feel a warm heat in my gut after a shot, as the capsicum gets absorbed.

      Don't use this tincture daily or more often, as it can cause serious GI irritation in quantity. Believe me, you do NOT want to vomit the stuff. Just imagine shoving a peeled habanero into your nose/sinuses for an idea of the pleasure. Also, keep away from eyes.

      This is cheaper than buying capsaicin tablets, and more fun, too! Challenge your buddies to a (single) shot of habanero sometime...Enjoy!

      • What you are doing seems like a lot of work. I think perhaps you will get more out of this if you combine with garlic and cinnamon as another poster suggests.

        Those folks from India are getting it right again.

        Why not just make and eat lots of delicious curry? Alcohol is fun, but it is also a poison. They did not appreciate this fact so much back in 1918.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by teebob21 (947095)
          It's not taken for the fun. The alcohol acts as a solvent for the nonpolar capsaicin molecule. Water would not have the same effect. Making an alcohol-based tincture allows for concentrations not possible with water, due to the polar nature of water. It's really not a lot of work: Make it; wait for first batch to finish; drink occasionally; have next batch in the garage waiting. Quite useful for those who dislike curry and other spicy foods, such as myself (...and yet I love hot wings).

          I'll let the debate a
        • by teebob21 (947095)
          Dang - I hit submit instead of preview.

          The "fun" I mentioned in the GP post was simply the wholesome pleasure of making a homemade natural "supplement". I was not talking about the "fun" that a few frat boys might try to have with some new crazy kind of homemade Absolut Peppar [absolut.com].
        • Actually, his method is very easy... to summarize, drop peppers in a sealable jar with 90+ proof vodka. Let sit for 4-6 months, strain the liquid into another jar/bottle (or remove the peppers). Drink the liquid as recommended - you've got weeks or months worth.

    • by TheDugong (701481)
      Do you have a cite for this? (Not doubting you, just want to have something to convince the missus that curry is healthy :)).
    • by KKlaus (1012919)
      Kevin Trudeau?
    • and you have also eliminated the side effects.

      The unpleasant side effect of chili powder comes 12 hours later.

  • FTFA

    One major obstacle that must be overcome, he says, is the irritating nature of capsaicin, which causes burning sensations when one touches (not to mention eats) it.

    Irritating... If you have ever had the pleasure to demo The Source [sammcgees.com] at 7.1 MScovilles "irritating" is not the adjective you first reach for.

    I have a friend who prides himself on this ability to handle heat and pain sample a bit too much one time. He became very quite but controlled although you could see his face turn red. He abruptly got up a

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Brickwall (985910)
      The next when I saw him, there was no pretense, he used a few expletives but claimed that in the "after glow" phase he actually had what one might refer to as a religious experience.

      I saw that one! Then Homer met a talking wolf...

    • I've had police-grade pepper spray on a chip, to win a bet. I don't think it's that hot, but it was the hottest thing I've ever eaten - and I regularly eat the hottest foods you can buy in south Texas. Fortunately I didn't have to stand next to it while it was sprayed, so none got in my nose or eyes.

      The worst part was not getting any water for about half an hour. Even after the heat fades the taste is awful.
  • something similar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by icegreentea (974342) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:02AM (#20847955)
    I seem to recall a related treatment where capsaicin could be used as a longterm local anesthetic. The doctor would first apply a shortterm anesthetic to the area being treated, and then applying pure capsaicin. The capsaicin would cause all of the nerves in the treated area to fire off like crazy until they burned out, while the local anesthetic would keep you from actually feeling the burn. By the time the local anestehtic wore off (an hour or so???), your nerves arent sending anymore, and wont be sending for quite a while, and the capsaicin gets washed off. repeat as needed.
    • by adatepej (1154117)
      I'm not so sure saying that saying capsaicin causes

      all of the nerves in the treated area to fire off like crazy until they burned out
      is really an accurate description of how capsaicin (alone) causes pain relief.
  • Ok (Score:5, Funny)

    by xx01dk (191137) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:17AM (#20848045)
    I promise I'll RTFA, but the first thought that came to mind was "Oh boy! Modern medicine can ease my pain... with FLAMING HOT NUCLEAR CODE RED WING SAUCE" followed by "GOOD LORD I'M NEVER SHITTING AGAIN."

  • by ragingmime (636249) <ragingmime&yahoo,com> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @01:24AM (#20848073) Homepage
    ...such as Zostrix and Dolorac (more info here [factsandcomparisons.com]). It's also an ingredient in Icy Hot and other meds [stjohn.org], apparently.

    Sensations of affective (dull) pain and heat are transferred along the same nerves, which is part of the reason why this chemical can help modulate signals there.
  • I'm picturing an army of nanobots, some clearing a path for others, some carrying the payload of capsaicin, others doing the work once the payload is at the target. Controlled by RTS AI.
    • RTS AI? You'd have to send them to Hard, or they'd probably just stick around floating around in the heart making diplomacy treaties with one another.
  • by FranTaylor (164577) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @02:33AM (#20848455)
    Wash your hands BEFORE you go to the bathroom.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Or put in contacts. I learned very quickly to wear latex gloves when making my green chili (On my web page, by the way.) And that stuff is very sticky, molecularly speaking, so washing may not be enough to prevent problems when putting contacts in.
      • It's not easily soluble in water. Try washing your hands with vegetable oil or something... That's also why drinking water does nothing to alleviate the burning sensation - and why drinking milk does help a bit!
        • by xappax (876447)
          There's actually a technique for this, called MOFIBA: Mineral Oil Followed Immediately By Alcohol. Basically, rub oil over your hands like you suggested, and then wipe them off thoroughly with rubbing alcohol (or vodka i guess). The most important part of this operation is to be extremely, EXTREMELY thorough with the alcohol wipe-down. Otherwise the oil will trap the capsaicin right against your skin (or contact) and cause even more pain, since it won't be able to be flushed out with watery tears or swea
    • by vorpal22 (114901)
      That's a mistake most people make only once. In my case, three times, really, but NEVER again.
    • The bathroom is nothing....wash them hands before SEX!

      My personal experience from dicing up some jalapeños for salsa shows that enough capsaicin can cling to skin through at least one hand-washing to make for some rather "hot" sex a few hours later. I thought it was kinda fun, but my wife was less than thrilled, female equipment being a little more susceptible to such things.
  • Yarg! Does any one have a link to the actual Nature article that they are referencing to? Would it be too hard to put a direct reference to the article? A search for David Julius on Nature.com gives a result on a May article http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v448/n7150/abs/nature05910.html [nature.com] ... not the one that SciAm is referencing
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @03:43AM (#20848811)
    The combination of capsaicin and a mild topical analgesic (menthol) has been on store shelves for decades, for example under the name of IcyHot.
  • It's no secret what capsaicin, the fiery molecule of peppers, does to cell walls.


    Actually, relevant to TFA, "cell membranes", not "cell walls". Any effect they have on cell walls (which are found in plants, but not, e.g., humans) would be pretty irrelevant to their utility in moving anesthetics into cells.
  • Terry Gross had a foodie on last night who wrote a book about eating dangerously.

    They have a short discussion about peppers starting about 9:15 in.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14948199 [npr.org]

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