Aspirin protects the heart because it impacts the genes

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A daily aspirin regimen may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack but not for the reason doctors originally thought.

Aspirin’s pain-reducing and blood-thinning abilities have long been credited with reduction in blood clots and inflammation. When blood vessels are already narrowed from atherosclerosis, a blood clot can quickly form and block an artery. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets and consequently helps prevent heart attacks.

However, new research from Duke Health describes how aspirin directly impacts the function of a gene regulatory protein that impacts the function of blood platelets.

The team focused on a pattern of gene activity they call an aspirin response signature, which identified a network of genes that correlated with platelet function and heart attack.

"This approach to comprehensively evaluate the actions of a drug using genomic data as we have done here with aspirin —is a paradigm shift that could change how drugs are developed and positioned for clinical use,” Geoffrey Ginsburg, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine, said. "We intend to use this approach to explore the pleiotropic effects of drugs more broadly to anticipate their side effects and understand their full repertoire of actions clinically."