All the things that aspirin does
Aspirin helps more than just aches and pains--its properties go far beyond that. Rod Flower explains
- By: Rod Flower
Ask any medical student and he or she will tell you that aspirin reduces fever, pain, and inflammation but may cause ulcers. If prompted, students may also recollect that it prolongs bleeding and may prevent strokes and heart attacks, but they are unlikely to know of aspirin's use in treating cancer or Alzheimer's disease.
A defining point in the history of aspirin was the discovery that it inhibited prostaglandin forming cyclo-oxygenase (COX 1).1 Prostaglandins cause inflammation, fever, and pain; have gastric cytoprotective actions; and may play a part when platelets aggregate, so this discovery provided a unified explanation for the effects of aspirin--and most other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Events took an even more interesting turn when scientists found another isoform of cyclo-oxygenase--cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX 2).2 Although both enzymes are similar in many ways, they differ in important ways--for eample, COX 2 was induced in cells by inflammatory insults. COX 2 therefore