/pros'teuh glan"din/, n.1. Biochem. any of a class of unsaturated fatty acids that are involved in the contraction of smooth muscle, the control of inflammation and body temperature, and many other physiological functions.2. Pharm. any commercial preparation of this substance.[1935-40; PROSTA(TE) + GLAND1 + -IN2]
* * *Any of a class of organic compounds that occur in many animal tissues and have diverse hormonelike effects in animals (see hormone).Their common chemical structure is derived from a fatty acid with 20 carbon atoms. They have important effects on blood pressure, blood clotting, pain sensation, and reproduction mechanisms, but one prostaglandin may have different and even opposite effects in different tissues. They hold promise for treating heart disease and viral diseases and may be useful in contraception. Some substances that inhibit prostaglandin synthesis (see aspirin) are useful in controlling pain, asthma attacks, or anaphylactic shock or as anticoagulants.
* * *any of a group of physiologically active substances having diverse hormonelike effects in animals. In terms of chemical structure, prostaglandins are 20-carbon fatty acid derivatives containing a 5-carbon ring. They were discovered in human semen in 1935 by the Swedish physiologist Ulf von Euler (Euler, Ulf von), who named them thinking that they were secreted by the prostate gland.Prostaglandins have been found in almost every tissue in humans and animals, where they are formed from polyunsaturated fatty acids and are rapidly metabolized. Plants synthesize molecules similar in structure to prostaglandins, including jasmonic acid (jasmonate), which regulates processes in plants, such as reproduction, fruit ripening, and flowering. Prostaglandins are very potent; for example, in humans, some affect blood pressure at concentrations as low as 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight. They also are diverse in their effects. Some prostaglandins act in an autocrine fashion, stimulating reactions in the same tissue in which they are synthesized, and others act in a paracrine fashion, stimulating reactions in local tissues near where they are synthesized. Depending on their type, prostaglandins can stimulate smooth-muscle contraction; lower and, in some animals, raise blood pressure; decrease and increase the clotting ability of blood; enhance ion transport across some membranes; stimulate inflammation; and inhibit lipolysis (the breakdown of fat) in adipose tissue. A given prostaglandin may have different and even opposite effects in different tissues.The understanding of prostaglandins grew in the 1960s and '70s with the pioneering research of biochemists Sune K. Bergström (Bergström, Sune K.) and Bengt Ingemar Samuelsson (Samuelsson, Bengt Ingemar) of Sweden and John Robert Vane of Britain. The threesome shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1982. Prostaglandins continue to receive much attention, partly because of their potential therapeutic value, which includes control of cardiovascular disease and virus infections; they may be useful as contraceptives and in producing abortions in humans and livestock. Substances that inhibit prostaglandin synthesis may be useful in controlling pain, asthma attacks, and anaphylactic shock and in reducing the clotting ability of blood.
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