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Secret of painless life discovered by scientists

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London: Scientists at University College London (UCL) have found the recipe for painlessness in a study that used genetically modified mice to show a channel responsible for allowing pain signals to pass along nerve cell membranes is vital to feeling agony.

In 2006, it was shown that sodium channel Nav1.7 is important for signalling in pain pathways and people born with non-functioning Nav1.7 do not feel pain.

UCL researchers found that mice and people who lack Nav1.7 also produce higher than normal levels of natural opioid peptides. To examine if opioids were important for painlessness, the researchers gave naloxone, an opioid blocker, to genetically modified mice lacking Nav1.7 and found that they became able to feel pain.

They then gave naloxone to a 39-year-old woman with the rare mutation and she felt pain for the first time in her life.

“After a decade of rather disappointing drug trials, we now have confirmation that Nav1.7 really is a key element in human pain,” said senior author professor John Wood (UCL Medicine).

“The secret ingredient turned out to be good old-fashioned opioid peptides, and we have now filed a patent for combining low dose opioids with Nav1.7 blockers. This should replicate the painlessness experienced by people with rare mutations, and we have already successfully tested this approach in unmodified mice.”

Broad-spectrum sodium channel blockers are used as local anaesthetics, but they are not suitable for long-term pain management as they cause complete numbness and can have serious side-effects over time.

By contrast, people born without working Nav1.7 still feel non-painful touch normally and the only known side-effect is the inability to smell.

Opioid painkillers such as morphine are highly effective at reducing pain, but long-term use can lead to dependence and tolerance. As the body becomes used to the drug it becomes less effective so higher doses are needed for the same effect, side effects become more severe, and eventually it stops working altogether.

“Used in combination with Nav1.7 blockers, the dose of opioid needed to prevent pain is very low,” Wood said.

“People with non-functioning Nav1.7 produce low levels of opioids throughout their lives without developing tolerance or experiencing unpleasant side-effects.”

Scientists hope to see this new approach tested in human trials by 2017.

The study findings were published in a recent issue of journal Nature Communications.

(IANS)

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Revealed: Why smartphone batteries explode

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The entire internal working of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that leads to their overheating and exploding, has finally been revealed by scientists, according to a report published by Nature communications.

According to scientists, understanding how Li-ion batteries fail and potentially cause a chain reaction is important for improving their design and make them safer to use and transport.

Speaking on the experiment to study the Lithium batteries, Donal Finegan from University College London (UCL) said, “We combined high energy synchrotron X-rays and thermal imaging to map changes to the internal structure and external temperature of two types of Li-ion batteries as we exposed them to extreme levels of heat.”

The scientists exposed the battery shells to temperatures in excess of 250 degrees Celsius, and then looked at the effects of gas pockets formation, venting and increasing temperatures on the layers inside two distinct commercial Li-ion batteries

The battery with an internal support remained largely intact up until the initiation of thermal runaway, at which point the copper material inside the cell melted indicating temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.

This heat spread from the inside to the outside of the battery causing thermal runaway.

In contrast, the battery without an internal support exploded causing the entire cap of the battery to detach and its contents to eject.

Prior to thermal runaway, the tightly packed core collapsed, increasing the risk of severe internal short circuits and damage to neighbouring objects.

“Hopefully from using our method, the design of safety features of batteries can be evaluated and improved,” said corresponding author Paul Shearing, also from UCL.