Promising Effects of Statins on Alzheimer's Pathology

Finally we get some data on changes in AD pathology with statin use! Statins are taken for lowering cholesterol, but they have other beneficial effects such as modulating inflammatory responses. Thus, they could prove beneficial in the treatment of AD given the disease has a significant inflammatory component.

According to the press release

The two changes in the brain that are considered the most definitive hallmarks of Alzheimer's are brain "plaques" and "tangles." After controlling for variables including age at death, gender, and strokes in the brain, the researchers found significantly fewer tangles in the brains of people who had taken statins than in those who had not. "These results are exciting, novel, and have important implications for prevention strategies," said senior co-author Eric Larson, MD, MPH, the leader of the ACT study and executive director of Group Health Center for Health Studies. "But they need to be confirmed, because ACT is not a randomized controlled trial."

As the press release rightly points out

A randomized controlled trial of statin treatment and brain autopsy findings would be problematic for ethical and practical reasons, said Dr. Larson. But the ACT setting made the study more rigorous than previous observational epidemiological studies, because it uses reliable automated pharmacy records, is based in a community population, and includes autopsies in people both with and without dementia.

so don't expect any prospective comparisons anytime soon. Or, ever. However, this study appears promising as it backs up the epidemiological data. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on the actual paper and post about it.

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Yeah! I went to a seminar from a guy at Australian National University who was talking about this - he was suggesting that Alzheimer's is actually a vascular disease caused by mini bleeds (or strokes) in the brain. The presence of blood in the brain being what causes the tangles and plaques to form, rather than them being the causative factor. He argued his theory very well and used lots of overlaying stained brain regions, also the epidemiological data seem to corroborate his ideas - the same risk factors for diseases such as cardiovascular disease seem to predispose to alzheimers as well. Hopefully, this may mean we are further along the path to solving the mystery!
PS. The researcher says he takes half an aspirin everyday to lower his risk of alzheimers!!

If AD is related to mini-hemorrhagic strokes, taking aspirin may in fact be a really, really bad idea, as aspirin is an anticoagulant. If anything, honestly, an inflamed blood brain barrier that is highly impermeable is more likely to contribute to the disease, as amyloid would not be pulled out into its natural sink, the CSF.

Inflammation from all those heart-nasty atherosclerotic plaques and whatnot, on the other hand, leads to signal cascades that we know can increase AD pathology. I think that's more likely to be the fruitful venture.