A treatment with high daily dosages of statins prescribed for effectively reducing blood cholesterol levels, may actually have a negative impact in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients, believe McGill University researchers in Canada say
Experimenting on mice at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), the researchers found statin therapy to inhibit myelin repair or remyelination in the central nervous system.
The team say that their findings highlight the crucial need to monitor the effects of central nervous system-accessible immune therapies on the myelin repair processes in patients with MS and other progressive demyelinating diseases.
They point out that in the early stages of MS, following an immune system attack on myelin, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells or stem cells in the central nervous system (CNS) are recruited to the lesion. These cells mature and produce new myelin to repair the damage.
The researchers involved simvastatin, a statin in clinical trials, in their study.
"The results of our study indicate that simvastatin has in fact, a slightly deleterious effect on myelin under non-pathological conditions," says Dr. Veronique Miron, post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Jack Antel's lab at the MNI, and lead investigator in the study.
"During remyelination, there is a decrease not only in myelin production but also in oligodendrocyte number as a result of simvastatin treatment. The findings also suggest that simvastatin inhibits CNS remyelination by blocking oligodendrocyte progenitor cell differentiation or maturation into myelinating oligodendrocytes," the researcher adds.
The researchers say that their study underscores the necessity of monitoring the long-terms effects of CNS accessible immune therapies, particularly those that can impact cell types that are postulated to be targeted in neurological disease processes and that are implicated in any brain tissue repair processes.
They believe that understanding the underlying mechanisms of these therapies will lead to improved and enhanced treatment strategies and ultimately improved quality of life for people who suffer from a variety of neurological diseases.
A research article on the study has been published in The American Journal of Pathology.