Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Favorite Molecule: ASA

My favorite organic molecule is acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), which is also known as aspirin to most people. This is my favorite molecule since it has so many usages in the healthcare world. Since I am a certified athletic trainer and nurse assistant, I find this drug helpful in many everyday situations.

Acetylsalicylic acid is a derivative of salicylate. This compound can be found in willow trees, which is important in the history of aspirin. The usage of willow tree based remedies can be dated back to 3000 BC. Archiologists have found an ancient Sumer stone tablet from the Third Dynasty of Ur that mentioned such usages of the tree. Sumer was a civilization located in Mesopotamia, which is now southern Iraq. The use of willow tree based medicine continued throughout the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and was even used by many Native American tribes in North America. In 1763 Edward Stone discovered salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. However, since salicylic acid is hard on the stomach, there was a quest to find substitute that would not hurt the stomach as much. This was accomplished in 1897 by Felix Hoffman, a German chemist who worked for the pharmaceutical company Bayer, when he discovered how to make acetylsalicylic acid.

There are many uses of aspirin, but the most common use is as an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). When used as an NSAID, it reduces swelling and relieves general pain. It is also used however as an antiplatelet, meaning that it decreases the formation of blood clots. For this reason, it is given to patients who are at risk for, or previously suffered,  a heart attack or stroke. Another thing aspirin is used for is to decrease acne. Since it is similar to salicylic acid, putting crushed aspirin on acne can reduce the irritation and help heal acne.

Overall, aspirin is a very versatile organic molecule that is important to the medical world. 


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