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.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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