Statins May Protect Brain From Alzheimer's Disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New research shows that taking statins (cholesterol lowering drugs), can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in addition to promoting heart health. Cholesterol lowering drugs have a protective effect on nerve cells that become damaged in the presence of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Ulrich Eisel, Department of Molecular Neurobiology, University of Groningen, Dolga and colleagues excessively stimulated animal brains. In humans, a process called excitotoxicity causes nerve cells to die in Alzheimer’s disease patients, because of over stimulation. They found that the cholesterol-lowering drug Lovastatin preserved brain cells and memory by stimulating the brain’s immune response.


The findings are published in the June issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The protective effect of cholesterol drugs against Alzheimer’s disease comes from stimulation of tumor necrosis factor, a chemical that regulates immune function.

When brain cells die, memory is lost. In the animal experiments statins that also lower cholesterol and are thought to reduce inflammation also prevented memory loss that occurs with Alzheimer’s disease when brain cells die.

The scope of cholesterol lowering medication could be expanded to provide protection from Alzheimer’s disease, especially for those with genetic or other risk factors. Many cholesterol drugs have been developed to help patients reduce risk of heart disease and provide protection from stroke. Cholesterol lowering drugs may also protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease by protecting from brain cell death.


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