Scientists may be one step closer to understanding the reason why simvastatin, a drug normally used to lower cholesterol, is also beneficial for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes.
The study “Structural basis for simvastatin competitive antagonism of complement receptor 3,” published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, showed that simvastatin, which is the most widely used cholesterol-lowering drug, may also have an effect on the immune system.
The new knowledge may help develop new and improved therapies for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, according to researchers.
Thomas Vorup-Jensen, PhD, a professor at the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University, in Denmark, and the senior author of the study, said simvastatin – and statins in general – are not normally designed to have an impact in reducing inflammation. In fact, while the benefits of simvastastin have long been known, how it worked for inflammation remained unanswered – until now.
“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,” he said in a press release.
Vorup-Jensen and his team demonstrated in laboratory studies that simvastatin inhibits proteins that keep immune system cells at the site of the inflammation. With the inhibition in place, the immune cells are no longer able to contribute to inflammation, which is then reduced.
Although the mechanism has so far been observed in cell culture only, Vorup-Jensen thinks that it will likely work in the body in the same way.
The immune system is supposed to protect the body against invading bacteria and viruses, but it sometimes attacks the body’s own cells and breaks down tissue. The attacks can cause chronic inflammation that leads to a variety of complications and can cause serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes.
In diabetes, inflammation impacts the kidneys, eyes and sense of touch and can cause serious consequences for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.