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Increased susceptibility of aging gastric mucosa to injury and delayed healing: Clinical implications


In this editorial we comment on the article by Fukushi K et al published in the recent issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology 2018; 24(34): 3908-3918. We focus specifically on the mechanisms of the anti-thrombotic action of aspirin, gastric mucosal injury and aging-related increased susceptibility of gastric mucosa to injury. Aspirin is widely used not only for the management of acute and chronic pain and arthritis, but also importantly for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular events such as myocardial infarcts and strokes. Clinical trials have consistently shown that antiplatelet therapy with long term, low dose aspirin (LDA) - 75 to 325 mg daily, dramatically reduces the risk of non-fatal myocardial infarcts, stroke and mortality in patients with established arterial diseases. However, such treatment considerably increases the risk of gastrointestinal (GI) ulcerations and serious bleeding by > 2-4 fold, especially in aging individuals. This risk is further increased in patients using LDA together with other antiplatelet agents, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) and/or alcohol, or in patients with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Previous studies by our group and others have demonstrated prominent structural and functional abnormalities in gastric mucosa of aging individuals (which we refer to as aging gastric mucosa or "aging gastropathy") compared to the gastric mucosa of younger individuals. Aging gastric mucosa has impaired mucosal defense, increased susceptibility to injury by a variety of noxious agents such as aspirin, other NSAIDs and ethanol, and delayed and impaired healing of injury. The mechanism underlying these abnormalities of aging gastric mucosa include reduced mucosal blood flow causing hypoxia, upregulation of PTEN, activation of pro-apoptotic caspase-3 and caspase-9, and reduced survivin (anti-apoptosis protein), importin-α (nuclear transport protein), vascular endothelial growth factor, and nerve growth factor. The decision regarding initiation of a long-term LDA therapy should be made after a careful consideration of both cardiovascular and GI risk factors. The latter include a previous history of GI bleeding and/or ulcers, age ≥ 70, male gender, concurrent use of other NSAIDs, alcohol consumption and H. pylori infection. Furthermore, the incidence of GI ulcers and bleeding can be reduced in patients on long term LDA treatment by several measures. Clinicians treating such patients should test for and eradicate H. pylori, instruct patients to avoid alcohol and non-aspirin NSAIDs, including cyclooxygenase-2-selective NSAIDs, and prescribe proton pump inhibitors in patients on LDA therapy. In the future, clinicians may be able to prescribe one of several potential new drugs, which include aspirin associated with phosphatidylcholine (PL2200), which retains all property of aspirin but reduces by approximately 50% LDA-induced GI ulcerations.

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