29th March 1927. Take an Aspirin.
The Acetyl Compound was the world’s first commercial pharmaceutical drug.
One who saw the potential for small doses of aspirin in preventing heart attacks was John Vane born in Tardebigge, Worcestershire, Today in 1927.(1)
In 1971 he discovered that a small 75mg daily dose inhibits the clot-forming hormone, the vasoconstrictor, Thromboxane. The aspirin also desensitizes nerve endings so reducing pain.(2)
Vane also discovered in 1976 Prostacyclin which is a vasodilator, thus the opposite to Thromboxane, as it relaxes muscles and reduces clotting and is a blood vessel dilating Prostaglandin.
Aspirin or Acetylsalicylic Acid, is related to a treatment known to the Ancient Greeks. Hippocrates described a tea made from willow bark that was effective against fevers which he recommended against the gout.
However Salicylic Acid can cause stomach pains and nausea, but the German pharmaceutical company Bayer found a compound with fewer side effects and registered the name of Aspirin in 1899 in tablet form, known as Bayer Aspirin.
Early samples of salicylic acid were extracted from the Meadowsweet plant, Spiraea also found in oil of wintergreen. Its original name was Spiraeic Acid and its acetyl derivative was called Aspirin (coined from ‘a’ for acetyl and spiraea).
The active ingredient of Aspirin, Salicylic Acid is also found in fruit, which has been deemed beneficial in reducing narrowing of the arteries.
Salicitates ward off disease and it was in 1763 that the Reverend Edmund Stone presented his findings to the Royal Society. He had noticed that farm workers in Chipping Norton used a preparation of the bark of the white willow tree to cool fevers and treat aches and pains.
This had a bitter flavour similar to ‘Peruvian Bark’ obtained from the cinchona tree of Bolivia and Peru, which contained quinine and used since the 1640’s to reduce fever and treat malaria.
Aspirin was marketed in Britain in October 1905 and imported from Germany until 1914 when supplies dried up, so ‘Aspro’ was introduced here in 1915.
Vane was later to share the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1982, for amongst other things his work on aspirin, which has led to the blood pressure reducers the Ace Inhibitors.(3)
(1) Sir John Vane who left academia in 1973 to become Director of the Wellcome Foundation died on 19th. November 2004.
(2) Thromboxane is a lipid found in blood platelets which causes clotting. They have no gland unlike other hormones.
Thromboxane is a Prostaglandin and along with Prostacyclin are compounds and derivatives of Arachidonic Acid.
(3) ACE: Angiotensin Conversion Enzymes. These end in ‘pril’ such as Captopril.