Statins May Impact MS Treatment

Statins are currently being used to help treat people with high cholesterol levels. Statins have been proven to effectively help lower blood cholesterol especially when used regularly. But it seems that statin treatment in high dosage may have a negative effect on people with multiple sclerosis.

A study on mice done by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute found out that statin therapy may actually inhibit remyelination or myelin repair in the central nervous system. The findings were published in the American Journal of Pathology and which highlighted the need to monitor the effects of immune therapies how it may affect the myelin repair processes in the central nervous system especially in people with Ms or other progressive demyelinating diseases.

In the early stages of multiple sclerosis and right after the immune system stages an attack on myelin in the central nervous system which causes lesions to develop, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells or stem cells are dispatched into the area of the lesions. The cells eventually mature and produce new myelin to repair the damage caused by the immune attack.

Statins are known to have an effect on the immune system response as well as on other cellular processes in the body. The action of statin on the CNS has not yet been fully determined in this case. But it does require further investigation since statin has the ability to go through the blood-brain barrier and into the CNS which may affect the enrichment of cholesterol found in the myelin sheath.

The objective of the study was to determine whether simvastatin, a type of statin undergoing clinical trials, may have a direct impact on the integrity of myelin in the brain and its repair process. The said study made use of a model of myelin damage with relatively no or little inflammation, typical of the same demyelination happening in people with MS. This allowed the researchers to study the direct effects of long-term statin therapy on myelin repair and independent of its indirect involvement with immune modulation.

The results of the study do show that simvastatin has, indeed, a slight detrimental effect on myelin and how the body tries to repair it. Under simvastatin therapy, there was a decrease seen in the remyelination process with lesser myelin production as well as a reduced number of oligodendrocytes. The study suggests that statins may inhibit the repair of myelin in the CNS by blocking the oligodendrocyte progenitor cells from maturing into myelin oligodendrocytes.

Source: McGill University. "Statins May Have A Negative Impact In Multiple Sclerosis Patients." ScienceDaily 28 May 2009. 2 June 2009 .

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