“Aspirin has been used for many years; it is well-understood, effective, inexpensive and widely available. ” – Dr. Jeffrey Berger In the last 30 years medicines prescribed by doctors have changed beyond all recognition. Our better knowledge of the nature of diseases and their management has led to the replacement of many old remedies by new ones specifically designed for each illness. Everyone has known for years that aspirin is a fast and reliable painkiller that also reduces inflammation and cools fevers.
More recently it has become just as well known as a help to people with heart complaints such as angina, coronary thrombosis and after coronary bypass surgery. It is becoming better known, too, in prevention of stroke. Among other diseases in which active research about aspirin is showing great promise – and in which it is now being increasingly used – are toxemia of pregnancy, diabetes, bowel cancer and dementia. How such an old drug can turn out to be so useful in so many crucial diseases makes a fascinating story.
Astonishing advances in medical care need not depend entirely on the invention and introduction of new medicine! Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid, is a salicylate drug, often used as an analgesic to relieve minor aches and pains, as and antipyretic to reduce fever, and as an anti-inflammatory medication. Aspirin was first isolated by Felix Hoffmann, a chemist with the German company Bayer in 1897. Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) decomposes rapidly in solutions of ammonium acetate or of the acetates, carbonates, citrates or hydroxides of the alkali metals.
ASA is stable in dry air, but gradually hydrolyses in contact with moisture to acetic and salicylic acids. In solution with alkalis, the hydrolysis proceeds rapidly and the clear solutions formed may consist entirely of acetate and salicylate. Aspirin is readily broken down in the body to salicylic acid, which itself has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, and analgesic effects. In 2012, salicylic acid was found to activate AMP-activated protein kinase, and this has been suggested as a possible explanation for some of the effects of both salicylic acid and aspirin.
The acetyl portion of the aspirin molecule is not without its own targets. Acetylation of cellular proteins is a well-established phenomenon in the regulation of protein function at the posttranslational level. Recent studies have reported aspirin is able to acetylate several other targets in addition to COX isoenzyme . These acetylation reactions may explain many hitherto unexplained effects of aspirin. Aspirin also has an antiplatelet effect by inhibiting the production of thromboxane, which under normal circumstances binds platelet molecules together to create a patch over damaged walls of blood vessels.
Because the platelet patch can become too large and also block blood flow, locally and downstream, aspirin is also used long-term, at low doses, to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation in people at high risk of developing blood clots. It has also been established that low doses of aspirin may be given immediately after a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack or of the death of cardiac tissue. Aspirin may be effective at preventing certain types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.