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Biological Chemistry

Curbing Inflammation With Aspirin And Omega-3s

Aspirin activates production of resolvins, anti-inflammatory agents built from omega-3 fatty acids

by Sarah Everts
February 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 8

A dose of aspirin and a diet of omega-3 fatty acids are recommended for reducing immune system inflammation, a process that can cause or exacerbate heart, lung, and kidney disease. Now researchers have figured out how these two anti-inflammatory agents work in concert (Chem. Biol., DOI: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2012.11.010). It turns out that a family of fatty acid molecules called resolvins serves as a signal our bodies use to start shutting down inflammation. Aspirin helps trigger production of one type of resolvin that is aptly named “aspirin-triggered resolvin D3.” Omega-3 fatty acids are required as building blocks to create the signal, report chemist Nicos A. Petasis of the University of Southern California and biomedical researcher Charles N. Serhan of Harvard Medical School. The team synthesized several resolvins to pinpoint the stereochemistry of the aspirin-sensitive one, and they show that it can reduce skin and abdominal tissue inflammation in mice. They are now developing resolvin mimics that could act as anti-inflammatory drug leads.


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