14 SCIENCE NE WS | October 13, 2018
NEWS NEWS IN BRIEF
BODY & BRAIN
Daily low-dose aspirin could be harmful
Benefits don’t outweigh risks for healthy older people, studies say
BY AIMEE CUNNINGHAM
Taking a daily dose of aspirin may not
be a good idea for healthy elderly adults,
A trio of papers based on a large-scale
clinical trial finds that the drug doesn’t
help to stave off heart attacks, strokes,
dementia or physical disability. In fact,
people in their golden years who took
a low dose of aspirin daily were more
likely to suffer serious internal bleeding than those who took a placebo.
The clinical trial, called ASPREE, or
Aspirin in Reducing Events in
the Elderly, included more than
19,000 adults. About half were
randomly assigned to take 100
milligrams of aspirin per day
and the other half took a placebo pill for about five years.
The papers, published online in the
New England Journal of Medicine on
September 16, “once again remind us
that aspirin is not a benign drug,” says
cardiologist Jeffrey Berger of New York
University School of Medicine, who was
not part of the research.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding of
the original data in support of aspirin,”
he says. The notion that everyone in
old age should take aspirin to prevent a
first heart attack or stroke, Berger says,
“is not borne out from the evidence to
date.” Yet a 2015 study found that nearly
half of 2,039 U.S. adults ages 45 to 75
who didn’t report a history of cardiovascular disease were regularly taking
“If you’ve had a heart attack, it’s not
debatable: Aspirin saves lives,” Berger
says. Clinical trials have shown that low-dose aspirin significantly reduces subsequent heart attacks and strokes in those
patients, equating to about 10 to 20 fewer
of these events per 1,000 people per year.
That benefit outweighs the increases
seen in occurrences of internal bleeding.
What’s unsettled is whether aspirin
can help prevent a first heart attack or
stroke in people without cardiovascular
disease. The new work casts additional
The research — by Anne Murray, the
medical director of the Berman Center
for Outcomes and Clinical Research at
Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis,
and colleagues—focused mostly on
Australians and some white Americans
ages 70 and older. But the study group
also included some black and Hispanic
Americans 65 and older.
Rates of cardiovascular disease,
including heart attacks and
stroke, were about the same in
the two groups: 10. 7 events per
1,000 people per year on aspi-
rin and 11. 3 events per 1,000
on the placebo. But those on
aspirin were significantly more
likely to develop a major hemorrhage, or
bleeding, in the stomach, intestines or
brain, with 8. 6 events per 1,000 people
compared with 6. 2 events per 1,000 on
Murray and colleagues also looked at
aspirin’s impact on dementia and dis-
ability. “Those are the two things that
play the largest role in whether people
are able to remain independent” in their
later years, Murray says.
Perhaps the blood-thinning and anti-
inflammatory properties of aspirin
might decrease those risks by amelio-
rating abnormalities in the brain’s small
blood vessels that have been linked to
impairments in thinking and move-
ment, the researchers thought. But
that hypothesis didn’t pan out. The
combined rates of dementia, physical
disability and death were nearly the
same between the aspirin and placebo
groups: 21. 5 events versus 21. 2 events
per 1,000 people per year.
“There really are no measurable
benefits of taking low-dose aspirin”
for healthy elderly adults, Murray says.
“Certainly the benefits don’t outweigh
the risk of bleeding.” s
MATTER & ENERGY
Sound waves can make bubbles
in levitated drops of liquid
Save your breath: A new way to make
bubbles requires only sound waves.
Scientists made the bubbles in levitated
drops of liquid, held aloft with sound
waves. Tweaking the sound waves
caused a drop to balloon into a bubble.
Increasing the intensity of the sound
made the liquid first buckle into a concave
shape. Then the sound waves resonated
inside the droplet’s newly formed cavity,
causing a rapid expansion of the liquid
film until it closed in on itself into a hol-
low bubble, researchers report online
September 11 in Nature Communications.
The floating bubbles last a surpris-
ingly long time — tens of minutes. As kids
know, a soap bubble on a wand sticks
around only a short while before the
soapy solution drains to the bubble’s
bottom and it pops (SN: 1/21/17, p. 32).
But the levitation slows down the liquid’s
drainage, putting off the bubble’s burst.
— Emily Conover
ATOM & COSMOS
Saturn has two hexagons, not one,
swirling around its north pole
A new hexagon has emerged high in the
skies over Saturn’s north pole.
As spring turned to summer in the
planet’s northern hemisphere, a six-sided
vortex appeared in the stratosphere.
Surprisingly, the polar polygon seems
to mirror the famous hexagonal cyclone
that swirls in the clouds hundreds of kilo-
meters below, researchers report online
September 3 in Nature Communications.
Infrared maps of the atmosphere, cre-
ated from data collected by the Cassini
spacecraft before it dove into Saturn last
year (SN: 9/2/17, p. 16), show that from
2014 to 2017, a warm, swirling mass of
air started developing over the north
pole. That wasn’t surprising — but the
six-sided shape came as a bit of a shock.
It suggests that the underlying hexagon
somehow controls what happens in the
stratosphere. These sorts of insights
could help researchers understand how
energy moves around in other planetary
atmospheres. — Christopher Crockett
is not a