Posted by: Glow-worm PJ22 MAY 2013
A team from the University of Arizona has recently published, in Disease Models and Mechanisms, findings on a possible cause for the link between statins and cognitive ability.
In laboratory tests they discovered that statins caused unusual swellings in the branches of the neurones, which dramatically change cell morphology.
Further microscopic studies revealed that these nodules, which affect neuronal transmission, are caused by mitochondrial accumulation in the branches of the neurons.
Cognitive disturbance and mood changes are recognised side effects in statins, but such symptoms are often attributed by physicians and patients alike to other factors, such as ageing or lifestyle events. This is the first time that research has provided evidence of any alteration of neurones by the drugs.
The team also found that when exposure to statins was stopped, the neurones returned to normal. This fits in with clinical evidence, where cognitive ability returns to normal upon withdrawal of statin therapy.
The team is extending its work to investigate whether these neuronal changes have a genetic component. This work with statins stemmed from a study published in 2006, which tested the effects of various drugs on fruit fly neurones.
It was noticed that a genetic mutation caused curvature in normally straight branches of neurones from the brain, and affected the sensitivities of the neurones to statins. Some drugs caused the neurones to return to normal, but statins caused the nodular effect.
If there is a genetic component to their cognitive effects, it is hoped that in future, before initiation of statin treatment, patients could be screened for their potential to suffer adverse effects, and any family history of adverse reaction to statins considered. This information could then be added to the risk-benefit calculation for treatment.