A widely used therapeutic statin, simvastatin, which is intended to treat cholesterol was found to be medically beneficial for patients with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS).
"Although this study cannot provide a final answer as to what exactly is the reason for the success of statins in progressive MS, it directs future researchers toward certain pathways," said lead author, Dr Arman Eshaghi (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology). "This paves the way to find better drug targets for an incurable disease such as MS."
Generally, multiple sclerosis (MS) affects how people walk, move, see, think, and feel and there is currently no cure for MS with little effective treatment for the secondary form.
Learn more about Multiple Sclerosis (MS):
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), simvastatin was reanalyzed from earlier studies of Multiple Sclerosis-Statins trial data. The analysis resulted in a hypothesis that causal associations between simvastatin and the brain changes it leads to are a result of either directly or indirectly changing the patient's peripheral cholesterol level.
"Simvastatin is one of the most promising treatment prospects for secondary progressive MS in our lifetime. People with this form of the condition have been waiting decades for a drug that works, which is why there's such excitement around being able to start the trial," said Professor Chataway, who is leading the trial and is a co-author on the PNAS paper.
To examine if a reduction in cholesterol levels resulted in a positive impact on brain atrophy and on disability, two computational models were developed—a cholesterol-mediated model and a cholesterol-independent model. In the cholesterol-mediated model, the effects of simvastatin on clinical measures and brain atrophy were brought by changes in cholesterol. The cholesterol-independent model, simvastatin was shown to have a direct effect on the clinical and MRI outcome measures that are independent of the effects on serum cholesterol levels.
"Statins are naturally occurring, produced by some fungi, meaning that unlike most drugs that are designed for specific targets, they have (still after two decades of use in heart diseases) several unknown effects, and that is why this study is so important,” says Dr Eshaghi. "My study tells us that statins help patients with MS for reasons different from how they help people lower their cholesterol. For example, statins can modulate other elements that are produced in the pathways before cholesterol, but have indirect effects on the immune system."
Source: Science Daily