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Joslin Researchers Hope to Teach Old Drug New Tricks

Drs. Steven Shoelson and Allison Goldfine

Drs. Steven Shoelson and Allison Goldfine

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

An anti-inflammatory drug called salsalate, commonly given for arthritis pain, is being tested in Boston to determine whether it can also help prevent cardiac disease.

Steven Shoelson, M.D., Ph.D., and Allison Goldfine, M.D., who are affiliated with Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, team up in translational research efforts taking laboratory observations into clinical study.

Salsalate, a generic drug that is chemically similar to aspirin but typically less prone to generate stomach complaints, is being studied after an odd twist of history.

“This research started with a finding made more than 140 years ago that seemed to have been forgotten about,” says Dr. Shoelson, whose lab at Joslin studies inflammation processes in the body. The report, by a 19th-century German doctor, gave interesting clues that a chemical with anti-inflammatory properties called sodium salicylate could aid in treating diabetes.

Studying salsalate, a similar but better-tolerated medication, in animals, Dr. Shoelson found encouraging results not just for treating diabetes but also for reducing atherosclerosis in the arteries of the heart, which may lead to heart attack.

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Drs. Steven Shoelson and Allison Goldfine of Joslin Diabetes Center

Page last updated: December 19, 2014