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November 1993

Eicosanoids: Critical Agents in the Physiological Process and Cellular Injury

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, University of South Alabama, Mobile.

Arch Surg. 1993;128(11):1192-1196. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1993.01420230020003

Eicosanoids were discovered as "prostaglandins" in the mid-1930s. The discovery that eicosanoids were ubiquitous in mammalian cells and that nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs worked by inhibiting enzymes that synthesized these chemicals heralded their extensive investigation in all fields of biology. Precursor fatty acids (arachidonic acids) are stored in cell phospholipids, acted on by two enzymes (cyclooxygenase and lipooxygenase) that yield prostaglandins, thromboxane, prostacyclin, and leukotrienes. Knowledge of their biochemical processes continue to unfold, but it is now believed that eicosanoids are part of a larger group of agents termed phospholipid mediators. Eicosanoids are intimately involved with cardiovascular function as well as central and peripheral vascular disease processes and ischemia. In the gastrointestinal tract, these potent lipids not only participate in many normal functions (eg, acid secretion and motility) but also in disease states (eg, inflammatory bowel disease and peptic ulcer disease). In shocklike states of sepsis and/or endotoxemia, eicosanoids have assumed a major role in many events that occur. Recently, discoveries have demonstrated that platelet-activating and tumor necrosis factors exert their effects in part through eicosanoids. The future will demonstrate these compounds to be critical not only in intracellular (molecular) events but also in the effects they produce that are far from the source of origin.

(Arch Surg. 1993;128:1192-1196)

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