ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Local researchers have made a discovery that may lead to the development of new anesthetics.

Washington University researchers, led by Dr. Alex Evers, have identified the site in the brain where the widely-used anesthetic drug propofol binds to receptors to sedate patients during surgery.

“For many years, the mechanisms by which anesthetics act have remained elusive, surprisingly. These are commonly-used drugs and people have really struggled to figure out how they work,” he explained.

The Washington University researchers teamed with colleagues at the Imperial College of London for the research.

Evers says learning precisely where propofol attaches to the brain could help lead to the development of more effective anesthetics with fewer side effects.

Propofol is sometimes used on a recreational basis, mostly famously by music icon Michael Jackson. A Los Angeles County coroner determined that Jackson’s 2009 death was caused in part by continued use of the sedative.

The Missouri Supreme Court has given state officials permission to use propofol in executions.

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