Monday, March 10, 2008

Brain on a statin

Apoptosis is an essential component of the maintenance process of our bodies. It is a highly controlled and organised technique for removing unwanted cells from any organ by the process of induced metabolic suicide.

Tinkering with this process is a potentially catastrophic game, that good old law of unintended consequences could have a field day here.

Statins promote apoptosis. They do it in diseased tissues, including cancer cells; hooray for Lipitor. Unfortunately they also do it in normal tissues too; boo for Lipitor.

Statins promote apoptosis in heart muscle. You just have to imagine what having heart muscle cells commit suicide does for your pumping ability. Most of the work on statins and myopathy focuses on coenzyme Q10 depletion. This looks to be an additional problem.

Statins promote apoptosis in the vascular epithelium. Again you just have to wonder what the death of vascular lining cells does for your circulation. Brings to mind those folks in Japan who were highly susceptible to simvastatin. This is the effect on mortality from cardiac causes when you really respond to a statin.

Statins also promote apoptosis in brain cells, or at least do so in a lab prep designed to mimic brain cells. This is your brain on a statin. Last sentence of the paper:

"These findings could contribute to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which statins induce growth suppression and/or apoptosis in neuronal cells, and may also help to explain the CNS side effects associated with statin therapy."

Just going back to that J-Litt paper, the death rate from accidents/suicides were increased just under three fold in the TC <160mg/dl group. Seems like low cholesterol causes you to throw punches at a well armed wide boy in a down town bar.

However all is not doom and gloom. Here is your brain on chocolate!

OK, that's a complete cheat. I've absolutely no idea how much of the stearic acid in the topping of a dessert cheesecake ever gets remotely near a human brain neurone in real life. Much less activate PPAR gamma there. But I'd prefer (real) chocolate to a statin any day if I was looking to avoid Alzheimer's (or anything else for that matter).



Dr. B G said...

I prefer chocolate too! And it gives me a bit of euphoria too!! :)


Stephan said...

Nice! I love the fact that chocolate has a lot of the same fat as beef, yet chocolate is a darling of the nutrition world and beef is the devil.

Anna said...

I love it when apoptosis comes up. That's what pays the bills around here - my husband's research into the process of apoptosis. If you ever have insomnia and want to know more about apoptosis, google Guy Salvesen. When I first met him, I never ran across the term (but then again I wasn't poking around so many interesting places then either). Of course, others apply apoptosis to clinical research, disease processes, etc. He works on apoptosis at the most basic level. He leaves the nutrition and cooking to me, which suits us fine.

Peter said...


My wife works at the most molecular level too. When I asked her to check over the immunology for the gluten/rheumatoid post she looked at it and said something about class II MHC molecules were not really her field, she's an MHC class I worker... Happily she OKed it anyway!


BTW the apoptosis does not seem to be cholesterol or Q10 related, more to do with obscure mevalonate derivatives low down the steroid synthesis pathway. I fell over this stuff while looking for the effects of cellular cholesterol deficiency per se. Minimal joy on the latter so far.