When atherosclerosis -- which is caused by fatty deposits clogging the blood vessels -- occurs, the result can be damage to the endothelium that lines the inside of the vessel. When there is damage to the lining -- known as endothelial dysfunction -- the vessel may not contract properly, leading to other potential problems.
In this study, researchers found that when aspirin was given to 14 patients with atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction, there was a strong tendency for improved function of the diseased blood vessels. In the five patients who only had risk factors, but no excessive fatty buildup, the improvement was not seen. The presence of fatty deposits in the vessels was associated with the success of the aspirin treatment.
Aspirin blocks the formation of cyclooxygenase-dependent vasoconstrictors, substances released by the vessel that control its constriction and relaxation. The benefit of aspirin on vascular function can be related to blocking the negative effects of these substances and restoring normal function of the vessel.
Aspirin may now provide another way for physicians to fight back against heart disease, according to the researchers, who are based at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Bethesda, MD. They add that these findings can partly explain why aspirin has beneficial effects on the rate of heart attacks as proven in other studies.
Contact: Dr. Arshed Quyyumi can be reached at (301) 496-5817.