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Statins might fight multiple sclerosis.

Statins Statins
A class of drugs commonly used to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Mentioned in: C-Reactive Protein
, the cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by millions of people, might also help those with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a preliminary study appealing in the May 15 Lancet.

Various studies have indicated that statins--in addition to slashing the harmful low-density lipoprotein cholesterol--have anti-inflammatory effects. Scientists reasoned that this might help MS patients, who have areas of brain tissue where the fatty sheath that insulates nerves has been stripped away by an inflammation-based immune onslaught. The damage to these structures, called myelin sheaths, can adversely affect coordination, vision, stamina, speech, and thinking, and it can lead to a shorter lifespan.

In the new study, researchers gave simvastatin simvastatin /sim·va·stat·in/ (sim´vah-stat?in) an antihyperlipidemic agent that acts by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis, used in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and other forms of dyslipidemia and to lower the risks associated  (Zocor) to 28 MS patients for 6 months. The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), noninvasive diagnostic technique that uses nuclear magnetic resonance to produce cross-sectional images of organs and other internal body structures.  to reveal brain lesions before and after treatment. They found about half as many lesions, on average, after treatment as there had been before treatment. They also observed a reduction in the size of remaining lesions. As such, simvastatin was about as effective as standard MS drugs, says study coauthor Inderjit Singh of the Medical University of South Carolina “MUSC” redirects here. For Abel Santa María airport in Santa Clara, Cuba (ICAO code MUSC), see Abel Santa María Airport.

The Medical University of South Carolina
 in Charleston.

The five drugs approved for MS in the past decade are only partially effective in protecting myelin myelin /my·elin/ (mi´e-lin) the lipid-rich substance of the cell membrane of Schwann cells that coils to form the myelin sheath surrounding the axon of myelinated nerve fibers.  and require visits to a clinic for injection, Singh says. Simvastatin, like other statins, is available in a pill and is considerably less expensive than the MS drugs, he says.

To establish clearly that a statin stat·in
Any of a class of drugs that inhibit a key enzyme involved in the synthesis of cholesterol and promote receptor binding of LDL cholesterol, resulting in decreased levels of serum cholesterol.
 works against MS, he says, the drug will need to be tested for at least 2 years in a study in which some patients receive inert pills. Meanwhile, Singh cautions doctors against prescribing statins for MS. However, the decision may soon be out of doctors' control in some places: Britain plans to permit the sale of statins without a prescription starting this summer.--N.S.
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Title Annotation:Biomedicine
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 12, 2004
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