Researchers have found that salicylic acid (main breakdown product of aspirin) targets the activities of HMGB1 (high mobility group box 1) (image), an inflammatory protein associated with a wide variety of diseases, offering hope that more powerful aspirin-like drugs may be developed. Aspirin is one of the oldest and most commonly used medicines, but many of its beneficial health effects have been hard for scientists and physicians to explain. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in Ithac, New York, in collaboration with colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey and at San Raffaele University and Research Institute in Italy, shows that aspirin's main breakdown product, salicylic acid, blocks HMGB1, which may explain many of the drug's therapeutic properties. The findings were published on September 23, 2015 in an open-access article in the journal Molecular Medicine. The article is titled “Aspirin′s Active Metabolite Salicylic Acid Targets High Mobility Group Box 1 to Modulate Inflammatory Responses.” "We've identified what we believe is a key target of aspirin's active form in the body, salicylic acid, which is responsible for some of the many therapeutic effects that aspirin has. This protein, HMGB1, is associated with many prevalent, devastating diseases in humans, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, sepsis, and inflammation-associated cancers, such as colorectal cancer and mesothelioma," said senior author Daniel Klessig, Ph.D., a Professor at BTI and Cornell University. Aspirin's pain relieving effects have long been attributed to its ability to block the enzymes cyclooxygenase 1 and 2, which produce prostaglandins--hormone-like compounds that cause inflammation and pain--a discovery that netted its discoverer, Dr. John Vane, a Nobel prize.
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