A breakthrough for an old standby

The common aspirin is a trusted member of most medicine cabinets, working effectively against everything from a simple headache to cardiovascular disease. But, like any effective drug, aspirin does have its side effects, which are particularly bothersome for many older people. Stomach upset can be quite common, and kidney damage is a possibility.

The good news is that researchers are developing a new version of aspirin that may be free of such side-effects. Aspirin blocks an enzyme called COX-2 (which promotes pain and fever) but it also affects a related enzyme (COX-1) which is essential for stomach and kidney health.

Scientists at Vanderbilt University have come up with compounds that can chemically disarm COX-2, the pain-giver, without affecting COX-1. If their research proves correct, it won’t be long before one of the world’s most effective drugs is rendered even more capable by scientific research. Meanwhile, other researchers continue to discover good properties of aspirin for everything from certain cancers to Alzheimer’s disease.