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Statins Have Unexpected Effect On Pool Of Powerful Brain Cells

Posted Jul 07 2008 7:06pm

Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have a profound effect on an elite group of cells important to brain health as we age, scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found. The new findings shed light on a long-debated potential role for statins in the area of dementia.

Neuroscientists found that statins, one of the most widely prescribed classes of medication ever used, have an unexpected effect on brain cells. Researchers looked at the effects of statins on glial progenitor cells, which help the brain stay healthy by serving as a crucial reservoir of cells that the brain can customize depending on its needs. The team found that the compounds spur the cells, which are very similar to stem cells, to shed their flexibility and become one particular type of cell.

The new findings come at a time of increasing awareness among neurologists and cardiologists of the possible effects of statins on the brain. Several studies have set out to show that statins provide some protection against dementia, but the evidence has been inconclusive at best. Meanwhile, there is some debate among physicians about whether statins might actually boost the risk of dementia. The new research published in the July issue of the journal Glia by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Fraser Sim, Ph.D., provides direct evidence for an effect of statins on brain cells.

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