The discovery of aspirin's antithrombotic effects

Author(s): Miner J, Hoffhines A


Aspirin has long been established as a useful analgesic and antipyretic. Even in ancient times, salicylate-containing plants such as the willow were commonly used to relieve pain and fever. In the 20th century, scientists discovered many details of aspirin's anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, including its molecular mechanism of action. In addition, the latter half of the century brought reports that daily, low doses of aspirin could prevent myocardial infarction and stroke. This finding was first reported by Lawrence Craven, a suburban general practitioner in Glendale, California. Unfortunately, Craven's work went largely unnoticed, and decades passed before his observations were verified by clinical trial. We present Craven's story, which demonstrates the value of a single physician's commitment to lifelong learning. In addition, we summarize the work of the physicians and scientists who discovered the molecular mechanisms by which aspirin exerts its antiplatelet effects. Collectively, these discoveries exemplify the complementary roles of basic science and clinical observation in advancing medicine.

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