Research yields another benefit to low-dose aspirin
The original miracle drug, aspirin, continues to surprise medical scientists. While studies have proven that aspirin can prevent a second heart attack by thinning the blood, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown that aspirin can also prevent heart attacks and stroke through an entirely different mechanism. Using laboratory models, the Penn researchers demonstrated that aspirin also lessens the inflammation associated with atherosclerosis and stabilizes athersclerotic plaque. Their findings are presented in the current issue of Circulation. "The past decade has seen a lot of research indicating that atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease," said Domenico Praticò, MD, assistant professor in Penn’s Department of Pharmacology. "Our findings show that aspirin not only decreases inflammation in the arteries and the growth of the atherosclerotic plaque, but it also beneficially alters the consistency of the plaque that remains."
Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, is a main cause of heart attacks and strokes, two leading causes of death in the United States. A variety of factors, including genetics and diet, spur the disease, which occurs as cholesterol-rich cells of the immune system accumulate inside of blood vessels. As these plaques grow, they cause the blood vessels to narrow. If a portion of the plaque breaks off it can induce the formation of a thrombus, a blood clot that could completely obstruct blood flow and cause a heart attack. Likewise, a portion of the thrombus could also travel through the bloodstream to the brain, where it could cause a stroke.
Greg Lester | EurekAlert
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