Biomedicine

A Wonder Drug?

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Science  08 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5498, pp. 1857
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5498.1857b

In a relatively short time, the group of molecules known as statins has revolutionized the practice of preventive cardiovascular medicine. The well-documented benefits of statins in preventing coronary heart disease arise from their ability to inhibit an enzyme essential for cholesterol synthesis, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, which leads in turn to lowering of serum cholesterol levels.

Kwak et al. now provide evidence that statins also may modulate the immune system. In cell culture studies, statins were found to inhibit the expression of class II major histocompatibility (MHC) antigens, leading to repression of T cell activation. Should future studies confirm the immunomodulatory activity of statins in vivo, the drugs could have new clinical applications as immunosuppressants in the context of organ transplants and various autoimmune disorders. Meanwhile, in two independent epidemiologic analyses, Wolozin et al. and Jick et al. report that the use of statins is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. If these observations (and a previous finding that statin use may protect against osteoporosis) survive further scrutiny, statins may one day rival aspirin as a wonder drug. — PAK

Nature Med.6, 1399 (2000); Arch. Neurol. 57, 1439 (2000); Lancet356, 1627 (2000).

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