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Heartburn drugs can damage cells that line blood vessels

Study suggests explanation for proton pump inhibitors’ link to severe side effects

By
4:00pm, May 10, 2016
blood vessels

PROTEIN PILEUP Cells that line human blood vessels accumulate cellular junk (globs of proteins seen as bright white dots in image) when treated long-term with a type of heartburn medication called proton pump inhibitors. 

A popular type of heartburn medicine could hasten wear and tear of blood vessels.

Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, gunk up cells that typically line the veins and arteries like a slick coat of Teflon, researchers report May 10 in Circulation Research. Excess cellular junk ages the cells, which could make blood vessels work less smoothly.

The results, though controversial, are the first inkling of evidence that might explain why PPIs have recently been linked to so many different health problems, from heart attacks to dementia.

“The authors present a compelling story,” says Ziyad Al-Aly, a nephrologist at the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis Health Care System in Missouri. It begins to outline how using PPIs could spell trouble later on, he says. But Al-Aly notes that the study has one big limitation: It was done in cells, not people.

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