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Workings of Cholesterol-Lowering Drug May Be Relevant To MS

July 11, 2016

One of the world’s most commonly used medications was found to affect the immune system in a way that can be explored to treat inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. It has been determined in the past that this agent, named Simvastatin, has potential to help MS and Parkinson’s patients.

Simvastatin has shown an ability to halt immune-related disease processes, such as those in type 1 diabetes, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis. Exactly how the drug — developed with no such actions in mind — alters the workings of the immune system has, however, eluded scientists.

The study, “Structural basis for simvastatin competitive antagonism of complement receptor 3,“ published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that the simvastatin molecule binds to an immune structure known as complement receptor (CR)3, preventing another factor from binding. When the natural factor can no longer bind, immune cells have no way to trigger immune processes, much as a person can’t charge a cellphone if an electrical socket is already occupied by another plug.

We have now identified a new mechanism that forms the basis for the effect, and this opens up new opportunities for developing a better substance to combat these inflammatory diseases. It’s an interesting line to pursue because a great many people can take statins without significant side effects,” Dr. Vorup-Jensen said.

Since the discovery was made in cells, the research team now hopes to prove the same is true in living organisms.

“Of course, we now need to establish whether it works in the same way in vivo, but we think it’s likely,” Dr. Vorup-Jensen said.