A recent study from the University of California Davis found that the popular painkiller ibuprofen may have more significant effects on the liver than previously thought.
They also found big differences between males and females.
The study is published in Scientific Reports. One author is Professor Aldrin Gomes, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences.
Ibuprofen belongs to a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, widely used over the counter to treat pain and fever.
It’s well-established that ibuprofen can cause heart problems and increase stroke risk, but the effects on the liver were less well understood.
In the study, the team dosed mice with a moderate amount of ibuprofen for a week—equivalent to an adult human taking about 400 mg of the drug daily.
Then they used advanced mass spectrometry to capture information on all the metabolic pathways in liver cells.
They found that ibuprofen caused many more protein expression changes in the liver than they expected
At least 34 different metabolic pathways were altered in male mice treated with ibuprofen.
They included pathways involved in the metabolism of amino acids, hormones, and vitamins as well as the production of reactive oxygen and hydrogen peroxide inside cells. Hydrogen peroxide damages proteins and stresses liver cells.
The researchers also found that ibuprofen had different, and in some cases opposite, effects in the livers of males and females.
For example, the proteasome—a waste-disposal system that removes unwanted proteins—responded differently in males and females.
The team says that other drugs taken with ibuprofen could stay in the body for a longer duration in males and this has never been shown before.
Many commonly used drugs such as ibuprofen are being overused and should not be used for certain conditions such as mild pain.
In the long term, it is important for the scientific community to start addressing differences between males and females with respect to drug metabolism and effects.
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