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Artery ageing prevented by statins

29th September 2008

Researchers at Cambridge University have found that medication taken by heart patients to keep their cholesterol levels low could also prevent their arteries ageing.

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The arteries of people who suffer from heart disease age more quickly than the other parts of their bodies.

The researchers published details of their study in the journal Circulation Research and said statins might be able to stop the aging effect.

Scientists have been aware for some time that statins are able to affect cholesterol levels but some patients have reported additional "benefits".

The Cambridge research could show how statins are able to enhance the capability of the cells which line the heart arteries.

Patients who have heart disease have a much faster occurrence of cell division in their arterial cells. When cells are unable to divide any more times, DNA is damaged and they do not function efficiently. This can lead to angina or heart attacks.

The researchers discovered that statins improved levels of the NBS-1 protein. This protein helps to "repair" DNA in cells and lets them resist the aging process for a greater length of time.

Professor Martin Bennett, who led the research, said: "It's an exciting breakthrough to find that statins not only lower cholesterol but also rev up the cells' own DNA repair kit, slowing the ageing process of the diseased artery.

"If statins can do this to other cells, they may protect normal tissues from DNA damage that occurs as part of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancer, potentially reducing the side-effects."

 

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