SEP 29, 2016 12:05 PM PDT

Statins Prevent Heart Disease By Influencing the Immune System

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
Statin drugs are approved by the FDA to lower LDL cholesterol, so-called “bad cholesterol,” as a treatment for heart disease. They do so by reducing inflammation that contributes to atherosclerotic plaques, but how? Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet aimed to answer this question and more in their new study published in The Journal of the American Heart Association.
health.clevelandclinic.org
Along with heart attack and stroke, atherosclerosis causes a condition called intermittent claudication, characterized by leg pain stimulated by exercise due to insufficient blood flow caused by blocked arteries. Claudication is the most prominent symptom of peripheral artery disease. 

Progression of atherosclerosis is marked by growing plaques of dead cells, oxidized LDL cholesterol, and two types of immune cells: T lymphocytes and dendritic cells, which are responsible in part for chronic inflammation in addition to their normal immune functions. To study in further detail how statins interact with the immune system, Karolinska Institutet scientists set out to determine the interaction between T lymphocytes and dendritic cells.

They did so by looking directly at atherosclerotic plaques obtain from human patients undergoing surgery. They found that oxidized LDL cholesterol activated inflammatory T lymphocytes from the plaque through the dendritic cells, but in the presence of statins, the process was interrupted. Statins blocked the inflammatory T lymphocytes, instead stimulating the production of regulatory T lymphocytes, which mediate the inflammatory response. Additionally, statins recharged the dendritic cells so they were anti-inflammatory.

"For the first time, we're able to show that an immunological treatment for atherosclerosis can actually work,” said professor Johan Frostegard of the study’s significance. 

However, Frostegard is no stranger to the potential negative side effects of statins. Past studies have shown that these drugs have carcinogenic properties in certain circumstances due to their repression of gene activators, called microRNAs. Specifically, statins repress let7c, which normally inhibits tumor growth. In the current study, researchers found let7c to be associated with oxidized LDL-induced T lymphocyte activation. Nevertheless, Frostegard believes statin drugs to be safe in most situations.

"If a patient has a tumor in which let7c plays an important part, the statin effect could be adverse,” Frostegard explained. “At the same time, statins reduce inflammation and that can lower the risk of cancer, and large metastudies show no general increase in cancer risk."

Frostegard’s study was recently published in The Journal of the American Heart Association.
 


Sources: Karolinska Institutet, Food and Drug Administration, University of Maryland Medical Center
 
About the Author
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
JUN 07, 2022
Cardiology
Overtraining Negatively Impacts Mood and Heart Rate Variability
JUN 07, 2022
Overtraining Negatively Impacts Mood and Heart Rate Variability
Athletes tend to have a worse mood and lower heart rate variability the day after intense training.
JUN 10, 2022
Health & Medicine
Are Cardiac Complications More Common After COVID-19 Infection or Vaccination?
JUN 10, 2022
Are Cardiac Complications More Common After COVID-19 Infection or Vaccination?
Myocarditis was a well-known reported side effect of COVID-19 vaccines, but heart issues were also a reported symptom of ...
JUN 12, 2022
Neuroscience
Multiple Heart-Related Conditions Triples Dementia Risk
JUN 12, 2022
Multiple Heart-Related Conditions Triples Dementia Risk
People who have multiple cardiometabolic conditions have a three times higher dementia risk than those with a high genet ...
JUN 19, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Math Model Predicts Anti-inflammatory Drug Efficacy Post-heart Attack
JUN 19, 2022
Math Model Predicts Anti-inflammatory Drug Efficacy Post-heart Attack
Researchers created a mathematical model that can predict drug combinations that may one day help treat heart attacks. T ...
JUL 13, 2022
Cardiology
Eating Eggs May Lower Heart Disease Risk
JUL 13, 2022
Eating Eggs May Lower Heart Disease Risk
Eating up to one egg per day may lower heart disease risk.
AUG 02, 2022
Clinical & Molecular DX
CRISPR Technology Breaks New Ground with Edits to Gene that Regulates Cholesterol
AUG 02, 2022
CRISPR Technology Breaks New Ground with Edits to Gene that Regulates Cholesterol
In 2013, scientists described a method for editing the genome of eukaryotic cells (such at those found in humans) using ...
Loading Comments...