NPR : News

Filed Under:

Genes May Reveal When Aspirin Won't Reduce Heart Risk

People are often told to take low-dose aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. But that preventive remedy doesn't work for a lot of people.

Researchers say they've found genetic variations that might be used to identify people who don't respond well to aspirin. If the results prove out, there could soon be a blood test to tell who benefits from aspirin, and who needs to look for other treatments to reduce cardiovascular risk.

Aspirin is prescribed because it makes the blood's platelets less sticky, and less apt to clump together and form blood clots. Clots are a key cause of both heart attacks and strokes.

But it's become clear that that remedy doesn't work for everyone. Anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of people may not get any protective benefit from aspirin, according to studies.

There are tests to tell how aspirin affects platelets, but they need to be done within a few hours after blood is drawn, and involve some tricky lab work. So they're not practical as a screening test for the millions of people who take aspirin to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

To find out if there's a better way to identify those people, researchers at Duke University Medical Center gathered up two groups — healthy volunteers who took 325 milligrams of aspirin every day for up to a month, and people with heart disease who already were taking low-dose aspirin (81 mg) as part of their treatment.

They then tested how well the people's blood platelets responded to the aspirin, and tested the people's genes.

They found 60 genes that were active in people, healthy and not, who didn't respond well to the aspirin. Their platelets stayed sticky.

The researchers then looked for those 60 genes in people who had had cardiac testing at the Duke hospital. They found that same genetic signature in patients who later had heart attacks or died, even if they were taking aspirin.

"Potentially you could take this 60 gene-set signature and develop some sort of diagnostic test, without all the time constraints current tests have," says Dr. Deepak Voora, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke and lead author of the study.

It's not clear what could help people who don't respond to aspirin, Voora says. It may be a question of figuring out different doses of aspirin for different people. Or it could be that they would need a different drug that inhibits platelet clotting, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) or similar medications.

The article was published online Wednesday in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Once Outlaws, Young Lords Find A Museum Home For Radical Roots

Inspired by the Black Panthers, the Young Lords were formed in New York City by a group of Puerto Rican youth in 1969. Their history is now on display in a new exhibition.
NPR

Europe's Taste For Caviar Is Putting Pressure On A Great Lakes Fish

Scientists say lake herring, a key fish in Lake Superior's food web, is suffering because of mild winters and Europe's appetite for roe. Some say the species may be at risk of "collapse."
WAMU 88.5

A Congressional Attempt To Speed The Development Of Lifesaving Treatments

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act in a rare bi-partisan effort. The bill is meant to speed the development of lifesaving treatments, but critics warn it may also allow ineffective or even harmful drugs onto the market.

NPR

Some Google Street View Cars Now Track Pollution Levels

Google's already tested three of the pollution-sensor equipped cars in Denver, and is currently trying them out in the Bay Area.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.