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Health

Pulling Pain Up

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Aaron Filler, a neurosurgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles, is developing the anesthetic equivalent of a smart bomb: a drug that delivers a tightly directed blow to the nerves that cause pain. Most painkillers are injected into the bloodstream, so they largely end up in places where they are not needed. Filler and his colleagues have found a way to attach anesthetic drugs to a biological routing molecule, called an axonal transport facilitator, that leads the medication directly into nerve cells. "The total dose required is often 1,000 times less than the systemic dose, because we only need to treat a group of neurons, rather than soak the entire body in drugs," Filler says. Clinical trials will begin early next year. But even if the new drugs function as intended, there's one problem for the faint of heart. You've still got to get a shot.

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