Dementia in Statin use
Study: Statins Can Cause Dementia
Friday, May 21, 2010 8:14 AM
Statin drugs, which are used to lower cholesterol, may adversely affect a particular group of brain cells important to the health of aging brains,
according to researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
There has been a great deal of discussion about a link between statins and dementia, but evidence either way has been scant,
said Steven Goldman,M.D., Ph.D., the research team leader.
This new data provides a basis for further exploration.
The team looked specifically at the effect of statins on glial progenitor cells.
These are flexible brain cells held in reserve which the brain can change and customize according to whatever type of cell it needs to stay healthy. The researchers found that statin drugs spur the glial progenitor cells, which are similar to stem cells, to become a particular kind of cell and to lose their crucial ability to change. In other words, statins cause the cells to take a final usless form of some kind which the brain can no longer modify or transform.
In their study of glial progenitor cells, the scientists ran a test to see which genes are more active in these cells
compared to other brain cells.They found out that several were related to cholesterol, in particular to an enzyme which is
highly involved in the production of cholesterol and is the primary target of statin
It was quite surprising that the cholesterol-signaling pathways are so active in these cells,
Since such signaling is blocked with compounds used literally by millions of patients every day, we decided to take a closer look.
Experimentation with cultures of human brain cells revealed that under the influence of statin drugs, the glial progenitor cells turned mostly into a type
of cell called an oligodendrocyte.
The bottom line is that statins push progenitor cells into developing into a type of cell which the brain may not need, and it may push the progenitor cells to develop prematurely when they should in fact be held in reserve in case of trauma such as a blow to the head, a stroke, or inflammation within the brain. In effect, statins deplete the availability of progenitor cells unnecessarily for no good reason.
It has yet to be determined whether statins actually boost the rate of dementia, although
some physicians already believethey do. Until more research can be performed, what course should doctors and patients take? According to Goldman,
There are a great number of questions that need to be explored further before anyone considers changing the way statins are used.
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