Substantial evidence has accumulated in support of the hypothesis that elevated cholesterol levels increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As a result, much work has been done investigating the potential use of lipid-lowering agents (LLAs), particularly statins, as preventive or therapeutic agents for AD. While epidemiology and preclinical statin research (described in Part 1 of this review) have generally supported an adverse role of high cholesterol regarding AD, human studies of statins (reviewed here) show highly variable outcomes, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. We identify several confounding factors among the human studies, including differing blood-brain barrier permeabilities among statins, the stage in AD at which statins were administered, and the drugs’ pleiotropic metabolic effects, all of which contribute to the substantial variability observed to date. We recommend that future human studies of this important therapeutic topic 1) take the blood-brain barrier permeabilities of statins into account when analyzing results, 2) include specific analyses of effects on low-density and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and most importantly, 3) conduct statin treatment trials solely in mild AD patients, who have the best chance for disease modification.
Statins, long known to be beneficial in conditions where dyslipidemia occurs by lowering serum cholesterol levels, also have been proposed for use in neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer disease. However, it is not clear that the purported effectiveness of statins in neurodegenerative disorders is directly related to cholesterol-lowering effects of these agents; rather, the pleiotropic functions of statins likely play critical roles.
Moreover, it is becoming more apparent with additional studies that statins can have deleterious effects in preclinical studies and lack effectiveness in various recent clinical trials. This perspective paper outlines pros and cons of the use of statins in neurodegenerative disorders, with particular emphasis on Alzheimer disease.
Preclinical and epidemiologic studies suggest a protective effect of statins on Alzheimer disease (AD). Experimental evidence indicates that some statins can cross the blood-brain barrier, alter brain cholesterol metabolism, and may ultimately decrease the production of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide. Despite these promising leads, clinical trials have yielded inconsistent results regarding the benefits of statin treatment in AD. Seeking to detect a biological signal of statins effect on AD, we conducted a 12-week open-label trial with simvastatin 40 mg/d and then 80 mg/d in 12 patients with AD or amnestic mild cognitive impairment and hypercholesterolemia. We quantified cholesterol precursors and metabolites and AD biomarkers of Aβ and tau in both plasma and cerebrospinal fluid at baseline and after the 12-week treatment period. We found a modest but significant inhibition of brain cholesterol biosynthesis after simvastatin treatment, as indexed by a decrease of cerebrospinal fluid lathosterol and plasma 24S-hydroxycholesterol. Despite this effect, there were no changes in AD biomarkers. Our findings indicate that simvastatin treatment can affect brain cholesterol metabolism within 12 weeks, but did not alter molecular indices of AD pathology during this short-term treatment.
Alzheimer disease; simvastatin; cholesterol; biomarker
Ezetimibe (Zetia®) is a potent inhibitor of cholesterol absorption that has been approved for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. Statin, an inhibitor of cholesterol synthesis, is the first-choice drug to reduce low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) for patients with hypercholesterolemia, due to its strong effect to lower the circulating LDL-C levels. Because a high dose of statins cause concern about rhabdomyolysis, it is sometimes difficult to achieve the guideline-recommended levels of LDL-C in high-risk patients with hypercholesterolemia treated with statin monotherapy. Ezetimibe has been reported to reduce LDL-C safely with both monotherapy and combination therapy with statins.
To investigate the effect of ezetimibe as "add-on" therapy to statin on hypercholesterolemia, we examined biomarkers and vascular endothelial function in 14 patients with hypercholesterolemia before and after the 22-week ezetimibe add-on therapy. Ezetimibe add-on therapy reduced LDL-C by 24% compared with baseline (p < 0.005), with 13 patients (93%) reaching their LDL cholesterol goals. Of the Ezetimibe add-on therapy significantly improved not only LDL-C, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), and apolipoprotein (apo)B levels, but also reduced levels of triglyceride (TG), the ratio of LDL/HDL-C, the ratio of apoB/apoA-I, and a biomarker for oxidative stress (d-ROMs). Furthermore, ezetimibe add-on therapy improved vascular endothelial function in high-risk patients with hypercholesterolemia.
In conclusion, ezetimibe as add-on therapy to statin might be a therapeutic good option for high-risk patients with atherosclerosis.
Statins inhibit the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, which is required for cholesterol biosynthesis, and are beneficial in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Most of the benefits of statin therapy are owing to the lowering of serum cholesterol levels. However, by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, statins can also inhibit the synthesis of isoprenoids, which are important lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules, such as Rho, Rac and Cdc42. Therefore, it is possible that statins might exert cholesterol-independent or ‘pleiotropic’ effects through direct inhibition of these small GTP-binding proteins. Recent studies have shown that statins might have important roles in diseases that are not mediated by cholesterol. Here, we review data from recent clinical trials that support the concept of statin pleiotropy and provide a rationale for their clinical importance.
Cholesterol is an essential molecule for brain homeostasis; yet, hypercholesterolemia and its numerous complications are believed to play a role in promoting multiple aspects of brain pathogenesis. An ever increasing number of individuals in modern Western Society are regularly consuming diets high in fat which promote the development of hypercholesterolemia. Additionally, modern societies are becoming increasingly aged, causing a collision between increased hypercholesterolemia and increased aging, which will likely lead to the development of increased pathological conditions due to hypercholesterolemia, thereby promoting deleterious neurochemical and behavioral changes in the brain. Lastly, while beneficial in controlling cholesterol levels, the long-term use of statins itself may potentially promote adverse effects on brain homeostasis, although specifics on this remain largely unknown. This review will focus on linking the current understanding of diet-induced hypercholesterolemia (as well as statin use) to the development of oxidative stress, neurochemical alterations, and cognitive disturbances in the aging brain.
Statins are widely used to lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol biosynthesis. Some evidence has indicated that statins might have therapeutic and preventive benefits for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We and others also have shown the beneficial effect of statin treatment in reversing learning and memory deficits in animal models of AD. However, data from clinical trials are inconclusive. We previously documented that the adenovirus vector encoding 11 tandem repeats of Aβ1-6 fused to the receptor-binding domain (Ia) of Pseudomonas exotoxin A, AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11, is effective in inducing an immune response against amyloid-β protein (Aβ) and reducing brain Aβ load in Alzheimer’s mouse models. In the present study, we examined whether the administration of simvastatin can modulate immune and behavioral responses of C57BL/6 mice to vaccination. Simvastatin was given to the animals as a diet admixture for four weeks, followed by nasal vaccination with AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11 once per week for four weeks. The cholesterol-lowering action of simvastatin was monitored by measuring the cholesterol levels in plasma. Simvastatin significantly increased the number of the mice responding to vaccination compared with the mice receiving only AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11. Immunoglobulin isotyping revealed that the vaccination predominantly induced Th2 immune responses. Simvastatin treatment prevented Aβ-induced production of IFN-γ in splenocytes. The adenovirus vaccination altered mouse behavior in T- and elevated plus-maze tests and simvastatin counteracted such behavioral changes. Our results indicate that simvastatin clearly enhances the immune responses of C57BL/6 mice to the nasal vaccination with AdPEDI-(Aβ1-6)11. Simvastatin may be effective in preventing behavioral changes associated with vaccination.
adenovirus; statins; sickness behavior; anxiety; Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid
Although statin treatment leads consistently to a reduction in major adverse coronary events and death in clinical trials, approximately 60 to 70% residual risk of these outcomes still remains. One frontier of investigational drug research is treatment to increase HDL, the ‘good cholesterol’ that is associated with a reduced risk of coronary artery disease. HDL and its major protein apolipoprotein A-I (apoAI) are protective against atherosclerosis through several mechanisms, including the ability to mediate reverse cholesterol transport. This review focuses on the preclinical and clinical findings for two types of therapies for the treatment of atherosclerosis: apoAI-containing compounds and apoAI mimetic peptides. Both of these therapies have excellent potential to be useful clinically to promote atherosclerosis regression and stabilize existing plaques, but significant hurdles must be overcome in order to develop these approaches into safe and effective therapies.
Apolipoprotein A-I; HDL; mimetic peptide; reverse cholesterol transport
3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl–coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) are among the most prescribed medications in the United States. Statins act on the rate-limiting step in cholesterol biosynthesis (the conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate) and are effective in treating dyslipidemia. However, statins decrease other downstream products of the mevalonate pathway, and it is via these pathways that statins may affect inflammation, nitric oxide synthesis, the coagulation cascade, and other processes. Through these pleiotropic effects, statins may have an effect on neurologic diseases, including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and multiple sclerosis. This article reviews the basic biochemistry of statins as it relates to these pleiotropic effects, the potential role of statins in several neurologic disorders, and the results of clinical trials performed for several of these conditions.
Hypercholesterolemia is a major cardiovascular risk factor that increases the incidence of atherosclerotic diseases in adults, although the association is less well established in the elderly. The role of statins is well characterized for the reduction of myocardial infarction incidence or death in individuals with a history or high risk of cardiovascular diseases, regardless of age. Therapeutic measures recommended to prevent cardiovascular diseases and to reduce cholesterol levels in the elderly, such as lifestyle changes and lipid-lowering drugs, particularly statins, are based on studies conducted in younger adults. This narrative review aims to summarize the main observational studies and randomized clinical trials that have studied the relationship between cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases and the potential benefits and drawbacks of statins use in elderly patients.
hypercholesterolemia; cardiovascular disease; coronary artery disease; stroke; peripheral arterial disease; aged
Recent clinical findings support the notion that the progressive deterioration of cholesterol homeostasis is a central player in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Epidemiological studies suggest that high midlife plasma total cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of AD. This paper reports the plasma cholesterol concentrations, cognitive performance, locomotor activity and neuropathological signs in a murine model (transgenic mice expressing apoB100 but knockout for the LDL receptor [LDLR]) of human familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH). From birth, these animals have markedly elevated LDL-cholesterol and apolipoprotein B100 (apoB100) levels. These transgenic mice were confirmed to have higher plasma cholesterol concentrations than wild-type mice, an effect potentiated by aging. Further, 3-month-old transgenic mice showed cholesterol (total and fractions) concentrations considerably higher than those of 18-month-old wild-type mice. The hypercholesterolaemia of the transgenic mice was associated with a clear locomotor deficit (as determined by rotarod, grip strength and open field testing) and impairment of the episodic-like memory (determined by the integrated memory test). This decline in locomotor activity and cognitive status was associated with neuritic dystrophy and/or the disorganization of the neuronal microtubule network, plus an increase in astrogliosis and lipid peroxidation in the brain regions associated with AD, such as the motor and lateral entorhinal cortex, the amygdaloid basal nucleus, and the hippocampus. Aortic atherosclerotic lesions were positively correlated with age, although potentiated by the transgenic genotype, while cerebral β-amyloidosis was positively correlated with genetic background rather than with age. These findings confirm hypercholesterolaemia as a key biomarker for monitoring mild cognitive impairment, and shows these transgenic mice can be used as a model for cognitive and psycho-motor decline.
Parkinson disease (PD) is second only to Alzheimer disease as the most common neurodegenerative disorder in humans. Despite intense investigations, no effective therapy is available to halt the progression of PD. Although statins are widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs throughout the world, recent studies suggest that these drugs modulate neurodegeneration-related signaling processes and may be beneficial for PD. Simvastatin is the most potent statin in crossing the blood-brain barrier, and this particular statin drug negatively correlates with the incidence of PD and shows efficacy in animal models of PD. However, PD mainly occurs in the aging population, who are more vulnerable to cholesterol or lipid-related disorders, raising questions whether this possible beneficial effect of statins in PD patients is cholesterol dependent or cholesterol independent. This article presents data on the therapeutic efficacy of simvastatin in a chronic MPTP model of PD, reviews recent literature, and discusses the pros and cons of statin therapy in PD.
Parkinson disease; statins; signal transduction; dopamine; neuroprotection
Platelet-activating factor (PAF) is implicated in the neuronal damage that accompanies ischemia, prion disease and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Since some epidemiological studies demonstrate that statins, drugs that reduce cholesterol synthesis, have a beneficial effect on mild AD, we examined the effects of two cholesterol synthesis inhibitors on neuronal responses to PAF.
Primary cortical neurons were treated with cholesterol synthesis inhibitors (simvastatin or squalestatin) prior to incubation with different neurotoxins. The effects of these drugs on neuronal cholesterol levels and neuronal survival were measured. Immunoblots were used to determine the effects of simvastatin or squalestatin on the distribution of the PAF receptor and an enzyme linked immunoassay was used to quantify the amounts of PAF receptor.
PAF killed primary neurons in a dose-dependent manner. Pre-treatment with simvastatin or squalestatin reduced neuronal cholesterol and increased the survival of PAF-treated neurons. Neuronal survival was increased 50% by 100 nM simvastatin, or 20 nM squalestatin. The addition of mevalonate restored cholesterol levels, and reversed the protective effect of simvastatin. Simvastatin or squalestatin did not affect the amounts of the PAF receptor but did cause it to disperse from within lipid rafts.
Treatment of neurons with cholesterol synthesis inhibitors including simvastatin and squalestatin protected neurons against PAF. Treatment caused a percentage of the PAF receptors to disperse from cholesterol-sensitive domains. These results raise the possibility that the effects of statins on neurodegenerative disease are, at least in part, due to desensitisation of neurons to PAF.
Hypercholesterolemia in midlife increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and contributes to cerebrovascular dysregulation - an early finding in preclinical AD pathology. Statins improve vascular reactivity, but it is unknown if they increase regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) in individuals at risk for AD.
In a randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study, 16 asymptomatic middle-aged adults with parental history of AD were randomized to atorvastatin or placebo daily for 4 months. At baseline and month 4, regional CBF was measured using arterial spin-labeling magnetic resonance imaging and endothelial function was measured using brachial artery ultrasound.
At baseline, participants with low HDL-cholesterol, higher global vascular risk, and greater endothelial dysfunction had reduced regional CBF in areas of the brain related to memory and learning (all p<0.03). Using voxel-based analysis, 4 months of atorvastatin increased CBF in bilateral hippocampi, fusiform gyrus, putamen and insular cortices compared to placebo.
In this pilot study, atorvastatin increased regional CBF in persons at risk for AD. Further research is warranted to confirm whether statins increase CBF in areas of the brain related to memory and learning and whether such perfusion changes are associated with a delay in the onset of AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; cerebral blood flow; dementia; MRI perfusion; prevention; statins
Statins inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase (HMG-CoA), the rate-limiting enzyme in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, and they are widely used to control plasma cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease. However, emerging evidence indicates that the beneficial effects of statins extend to the central nervous system. Statins have been shown to improve the outcome of stroke and traumatic brain injury, and statin use has been associated with a reduced prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and dementia. However, prospective studies with statins in AD have produced mixed results. Recently, we reported that simvastatin, a widely used statin in humans, enhances learning and memory in non-transgenic mice as well as in transgenic mice with AD-like pathology on a mixed genetic background. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of simvastatin on learning and memory remain elusive. The present study was undertaken to investigate the effect of acute simvastatin treatment on hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular model of learning and memory, in brain slices from C57BL/6 mice. Our results demonstrate that a prolonged in vitro simvastatin treatment for 2-4 hrs, but not a short-term 20-min exposure, significantly increases the magnitude of LTP at CA3-CA1 synapses without altering basal synaptic transmission or the paired-pulse facilitation ratio in hippocampal slices. Furthermore, we show that phosphorylation of Akt (protein kinase B) is increased significantly in the CA1 region following 2-hour treatment with simvastatin, and that inhibition of Akt phosphorylation suppresses the simvastatin-induced enhancement of LTP. These findings suggest activation of Akt as a molecular pathway for augmented hippocampal LTP by simvastatin treatment, and implicate enhancement of hippocampal LTP as a potential cellular mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of simvastatin on cognitive function.
statins; synaptic plasticity; learning and memory; cognitive function; protein phosphorylation; Alzheimer’s disease
Epidemiological studies show that vascular risk factors (e.g. atherosclerosis, diabetes, homocysteine, hypertension or cholesterol) may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. Animal models may help to discover the role of vascular risk factors on cognition. In the present project we treated male Sprague Dawley rats with a diet containing homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) or cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) for 5 months or exposed the rats to ethanol (20% in drinking water) or a combination of cholesterol + ethanol (mix) for 12 months. Our experiments show that all 3 treatments (homocysteine, cholesterol, ethanol) declined spatial memory in the 8-arm radial maze, reduced the number of cholinergic neurons and induced blood–brain barrier leakage in the cortex. Rats treated with cholesterol also displayed markedly enhanced inflammation in the cortex. Levels of amyloid precursor protein, beta-amyloid(1–42), as well as tau and phospho-tau 181 were significantly enhanced in the cortex of cholesterol-fed rats. A combination of ethanol and cholesterol did not further potentiate the effects on spatial memory, cholinergic neurons and blood–brain barrier leakage. The data suggest that chronic mild vascular risk factors over months induce small lesions of the brain capillaries in the cortex, which may contribute to the development of vascular dementia or also Alzheimer's disease.
Vascular risk factors; Blood–brain barrier leakage; Alzheimer's disease; Vascular dementia
In the past decade, studies of Alzheimer disease risk and medication exposures, supplement intake, and dietary factors have grown in number. Typically identified in case-control and cross-sectional studies, many of these exposures have also been replicated in prospective studies. These observational studies have provided the foundation for the development of several prevention trials. This brief review focuses on exposures that have been identified in multiple studies. Observational studies of medications suggesting protection for Alzheimer disease include estrogen hormonal therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and cholesterol-lowering statins. Evidence regarding dietary and supplemental intake of vitamins E, C, and folate, and studies of alcohol and wine intake are also reviewed. At present, there is insufficient evidence to make public health recommendations, but these studies can provide potentially important clues and new avenues for clinical and laboratory research.
risk factor; medications; diet; Alzheimer disease
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) presents an enormous and growing burden on the Canadian health care system. Elevated serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are an established, major risk factor in the development of premature CVD. There is strong evidence that 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, or statins, significantly lower both low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and CVD risk. However, there is currently a treatment gap, in that a large segment of the population who should be receiving statins due to elevated serum cholesterol levels are not. Individuals at moderate risk of developing CVD represent one large population segment that is currently being undertreated. This group may be a candidate for receiving over-the-counter (OTC) or behind-the-counter (BTC) statins, which may be a suitable primary prevention strategy. Nonetheless, it must be noted that hypercholesterolemia is a complex, chronic condition that must be carefully managed and requires close consultation with a health care practitioner. The advantages and disadvantages of OTC or BTC statin usage must therefore be carefully weighed before any potential introduction of OTC or BTC statins in Canada.
Cardiovascular disease; Cholesterol; HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor; Lipid; Statin
Total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol exhibit an independent, strong, continuous correlation with cardiovascular events. The effectiveness of hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) in the treatment and prevention of atherosclerosis is well-established. However, despite the lowering of LDL targets and the increased use of statins, patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) continue to experience a higher proportion of adverse coronary artery disease events. This is as a result of an atherogenic dyslipidaemia, characterized by low levels of high-density lipoprotein and elevated plasma triglyceride concentrations, often with high levels of cholesterol-rich remnant particles. This article will review dyslipidaemia and its role in DM, and will discuss available treatment modalities that address residual cardiovascular risk in this disease.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US and a common cause of long-term disability worldwide. Ischemic strokes, which are often atherothrombotic, account for more than 80% of all strokes. Current stroke prevention focuses on optimizing the treatment of modifiable risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia. The epidemiologic association between serum cholesterol levels and adjusted stroke rates is not as strong as the link between serum cholesterol levels and coronary heart disease. Clinical trials of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins), which are potent inhibitors of cholesterol synthesis, have demonstrated, however, a marked reduction in stroke risk in hypercholesterolemic and atherosclerotic individuals, with benefits extending to normocholesterolemic individuals. These findings suggest that statins might have additional effects in stroke protection beyond cholesterol reduction. Because statins inhibit the synthesis of isoprenoid intermediates in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, which are important lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules, they might have direct noncholesterol-dependent effects on inflammatory and endothelial cells. Here we discuss data from clinical trials assessing the effects of statins on stroke risk, as well as outline the mechanisms evidence-based recommendations for stroke prevention, based on achieved underlying the cholesterol-independent effects of statins and provide serum cholesterol levels in patients at risk of stroke.
cholesterol; endothelium; nitric oxide; statins; stroke
Statins, or 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) inhibitors, are widely prescribed to lower plasma cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. Despite the well documented efficacy of statins, there is large inter-individual variation in response. Using a panel of immortalized lymphocyte cell lines incubated with simvastatin, we recently found that the magnitude of expression of an alternatively spliced HMGCR transcript lacking exon 13 was inversely correlated with in vivo reductions of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, apoB, and triglycerides following statin treatment of the individuals from whom the cells were derived. This review will discuss the potential significance of alternative splicing as a mechanism contributing to variation in statin efficacy as well as the utility of immortalized lymphocyte cell lines for identifying pharmacogenetically relevant polymorphisms and molecular mechanisms.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the value of model-based, quantitative decision making during the development of gemcabene, a novel lipid-altering agent. The decisions were driven by a model of the likely clinical profile of gemcabene in comparison with its competitors, such as 3-hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins), the cholesterol absorption inhibitor ezetimibe, and their combination. Dose-response models were developed for the lipid effects (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDL-C] and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol); adverse effects, such as persistent alanine aminotransferase elevation and myalgia; tolerability issues, such as headache; and risk reduction for coronary artery disease-related events for 5 statins, ezetimibe, gemcabene, and their combinations. The integrated model was based on the joint analysis of publicly available summary-level data and proprietary patient-level data and included information from almost 10,000 patients. The model was made available and accessible to the development team by using the Pharsight Drug Model Explorer model visualization technology. The modeling greatly enhanced the understanding of the clinical profile of gemcabene when given alone or in combination with a statin. The interaction between statins and gemcabene for the LDL-C lowering effect was found to be significantly different from the interaction between statins and ezetimibe. Ezetimibe was found to have a pharmacological-independent interaction resulting in additional LDL-C lowering over the entire statin dose range. The gemcabene interaction was found to be less than independent, resulting in almost no additional LDL-C lowering at high-statin doses, although the drug has a significant LDL-C effect when administered alone or in combination with a low dose of a statin. The quick availability of the model after completion of the first phase II trial in the target patient population and the ability of the team to explore the potential clinical efficacy and safety of gemcabene in comparison with alternative treatment options facilitated a quick decision to stop development.
statins; gemcabene; ezetimibe; doseresponse; LDL
The role of cholesterol in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is still controversial. Some studies aiming to explore the association between lipids and/or lipid lowering treatment and AD indicate a harmful effect of dyslipidemia and a beneficial effect of statin therapy on AD risk. The findings are supported by genetic linkage and association studies that have clearly identified several genes involved in cholesterol metabolism or transport as AD susceptibility genes, including Apolipoprotein E (APOE), Apolipoprotein J (APOJ, CLU) and the sortilin-related receptor (SORL1). Functional cell biology studies support a critical involvement of lipid raft cholesterol in the modulation of AbetaPP processing by β- and γ-secretase resulting in altered Aβ production. Contradictory evidence comes from epidemiological studies showing no or controversial association between dyslipidemia and AD risk, cell biology studies suggesting that there is little exchange between circulating and brain cholesterol, that increased membrane cholesterol is protective by inhibiting loss of membrane integrity through amyloid cytotoxicity, and that cellular cholesterol inhibits co-localization of BACE1 and AbetaPP in non-raft membrane domains and thereby increasing generation of plasmin, an Aβ-degrading enzyme. The aim of this review is to summarize the findings of epidemiologic and cell biologic studies aiming to elucidate the role of cholesterol in AD etiology.
Alzheimer’s disease; cholesterol; Aβ peptides; AbetaPP; neurodegeneration; amyloid; genetics
Convincing evidence from basic research and animal studies shows that HMG CoA reductase inhibitors or statins, exert cardiovascular protective effects beyond cholesterol-lowering. Because of the central role of LDL-C in mediating vascular pathology and the efficacy of statins for lowering LDL-C, the clinical importance of these additional non-lipid effects remains to be determined. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence from recent clinical trials, which suggests that some of the beneficial effects of statins may be unrelated to changes in LDL-C. Indeed, in animal studies, many of the cholesterol-independent or “pleiotropic” effects of statins are due predominantly to inhibition of isoprenoid, but not cholesterol synthesis. Thus, with the recent findings of the HPS and ASCOT-LLA, the potential cholesterol-independent effects of statins have shifted the treatment strategy from numerical lipid parameters to the global assessment of cardiovascular risks.
Reducing low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) is associated with reduced risk for major coronary events. Despite statin efficacy, a considerable proportion of statin-treated hypercholesterolemic patients fail to reach therapeutic LDL-C targets as defined by guidelines. This study compared the efficacy of ezetimibe added to ongoing statins with doubling the dose of ongoing statin in a population of Taiwanese patients with hypercholesterolemia.
This was a randomized, open-label, parallel-group comparison study of ezetimibe 10 mg added to ongoing statin compared with doubling the dose of ongoing statin. Adult Taiwanese hypercholesterolemic patients not at optimal LDL-C levels with previous statin treatment were randomized (N = 83) to ongoing statin + ezetimibe (simvastatin, atorvastatin or pravastatin + ezetimibe at doses of 20/10, 10/10 or 20/10 mg) or doubling the dose of ongoing statin (simvastatin 40 mg, atorvastatin 20 mg or pravastatin 40 mg) for 8 weeks. Percent change in total cholesterol, LDL-C, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and triglycerides, and specified safety parameters were assessed at 4 and 8 weeks.
At 8 weeks, patients treated with statin + ezetimibe experienced significantly greater reductions compared with doubling the statin dose in LDL-C (26.2% vs 17.9%, p = 0.0026) and total cholesterol (20.8% vs 12.2%, p = 0.0003). Percentage of patients achieving treatment goal was greater for statin + ezetimibe (58.6%) vs doubling statin (41.2%), but the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.1675). The safety and tolerability profiles were similar between treatments.
Ezetimibe added to ongoing statin therapy resulted in significantly greater lipid-lowering compared with doubling the dose of statin in Taiwanese patients with hypercholesterolemia. Studies to assess clinical outcome benefit are ongoing.
Registered at ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00652327
Ezetimibe; Simvastatin; Atorvastatin; Pravastatin