Statins for life extension?
August 30, 2013. Statin drugs are a class of pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. The cardiovascular benefits of a low dose of specific statin drugs may outweigh possible side effects for many individuals. Researchers have uncovered another potential benefit for statins: that of reducing the rate of telomere shortening. Telomeres are bits of genetic material that cap the ends of the cells’ chromosomes. Accelerated telomere shortening has been associated with a greater risk of age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, as well as premature mortality. In the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, researchers at Second University of Naples measured white blood cell telomere length as well as the activity of telomerase (the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length), in 230 statin users and nonusers between the ages of 30 and 86 years. Telomerase levels were found to be higher among statin users independent of a number of factors, including age, smoking status and levels of inflammation. Those who used the drugs also exhibited a reduction in the loss of telomere length that accompanies aging. “By telomerase activation, statins may represent a new molecular switch able to slow down
senescent cells in our tissues,” commented researcher Giuseppe Paolisso, MD, PhD of the Second University of Naples’ Department of Internal Medicine, Surgical, Neurological Metabolic Disease and Geriatric Medicine. “The great thing about statins is that they reduce risks for cardiovascular disease significantly and are generally safe for most people,” added Gerald Weissmann, MD, who is The FASEB Journal’s Editor-in-Chief. “The bad thing is that statins do have side effects, like muscle injury. But if it is confirmed that statins might actually slow aging itself—and not just the symptoms of
aging—then statins are much more powerful drugs than we ever thought.”