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  • Making Good Medicines Better

  • Making Good Medicines Better

    Acetylsalicylic acid— more commonly known as aspirin— is a very old drug. It is also a very effective drug, available without a presciption for a wide variety of uses. Aspirin is an inexpensive medicine used to treat pain and swelling caused by minor skin wounds or sunburns, and as a protectant against heart disease. Yet despite its reputation as a "wonder drug," scientists still don't know exactly how aspirin works so well in so many ways.

    Charles Serhan of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston is one biological chemist who is trying to figure aspirin out. Aspirin isn't a complete black box— scientists already know that the drug works to alleviate pain by blocking biochemical circuits that produce two of the body's natural compounds, called prostaglandins and thromboxanes. Based on this, many researchers have assumed that aspirin's knack for halting inflammation— the painful irritation and swelling that are born of our own immune system's chemical weaponry— is caused by the drug working through that same biochemical pathway.

    Serhan's work sheds new light on the issue and may even lead the way to better anti-inflammatory medicines. After he discovered that aspirin treats inflammation by prompting the body to manufacture its own anti-inflammatory compound (a molecule called 15-epi-lipoxin A4), Serhan set about to make synthetic look-alikes of this molecule. In recent animal studies, at least one of the synthetic mimics worked 100 times better than aspirin and other stronger anti-inflammatory medicines available by prescription only.

    Serhan's research paves the way toward finding more selective treatment strategies that bring about less of the unwanted side effects produced by aspirin and many other drugs currently used to treat inflammation.

    This information came from an NIGMS online article.

    *** Any medical or legal information can be incorrect or outdated ***
    *** Consult a qualified source for current info ***

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