LONDON – A new study by Oxford University scientists suggests that plants react to anesthetics in a similar fashion to animals and humans, opening their possible use in clinical trials, according to a scientific study published on Monday.
The study appeared in the latest edition of the journal “Annals Of Botany” and first describes how anesthesia for medical purposes was introduced and first described in 1818 by Michael Faraday, famous for his work on electromagnetic fields.
The authors of the study K. Yokawa, F. Balu’ka and their scientific team concluded that plants are sensitive to several anesthetics, as in the case of animals and humans, showing that “Mimosa leaves, pea tendrils, Venus flytraps and sundew traps all lost both their autonomous and touch-induced movements after exposure to anesthetics” if used at the appropriate concentrations.
It relates how a neck tumor was painlessly removed in 1846 during a surgical procedure after the patient inhaled ether vapor.
Prior to this breakthrough, surgery and pain were synonymous concepts.
Although anesthetics have been used over a 150-year period, and many different chemicals have been found to induce anesthesia, such as diethyl ether, chloroform, halothane or isoflurane, how the anesthetic agent functions exactly remain largely unknown.
One of these mysteries is how different compounds with no structural similarities, even chemically inert elements such as xenon (a noble, inert gas), behave as anesthetic agents inducing loss of consciousness.
The study concludes that plants emerge as ideal model objects to study overall anesthesia questions, and serve as a suitable test platform for human anesthesia research.