Statins May Help to Fight Alzheimer's If Given Early

Article excerpt

Byline: Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent

A WIDELY prescribed statin could help in the fight against Alzheimer's disease if it is given at an early stage, researchers suggest.

The cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin may prevent some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's by improving the function of blood vessels, their study has found.

It also found that the drug successfully boosted learning and memory - but only in younger sufferers in whom the disease had not progressed far.

However, statin treatment was found to have no effect on one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's - a build-up of amyloid-beta protein in the brain - even in those who benefited from the treatment.

The study was carried out on mice by researchers at McGill University, Montreal, who published their findings in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Previous work by the same Canadian research team in older mice showed low-dose simvastatin improved blood vessel function but had no effect on memory.

Statins have become a mainstay for doctors treating heart attack and stroke survivors.

They make up the vast majority of lipid-lowering drugs and are effective at lowering levels of cholesterol, the fatty substance in blood that clogs up arteries and leads to heart attacks.

In November last year, the Scottish Daily Mail revealed that prescribing the drugs cost the NHS in Scotland alone [pounds sterling]70million a year.

However, there has been no clear evidence from previous research that they help reduce Alzheimer's symptoms - indeed memory loss is one of the known side-effects of the drugs.

In the latest study, younger mice aged around six months and year-old mice with Alzheimer's disease were tested after receiving a high dose of simvastatin for three to six months.

The drug restored brain blood vessel function in both groups, but only the younger animals showed improvements in learning and memory tests. …