Cholesterol-lowering statins may help to slow the aging process

statinsStatins are one of the most studied classifications of medications in the pharmaceutical industry as researchers gradually uncover the fantastic depths of their potential.

As well as their primary purpose of lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol aka. ‘bad cholesterol’ and thus decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, statins such as Lipitor (Atorvastatin) and Crestor (Rosuvastatin) have even remarkably been linked with aiding the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, decreasing the risk of liver cancer and are even being explored in the treatment of asthma.

However, the list of potential benefits of statins has one new addition, according to the findings of research published in September’s publication of The FASEB Journal.

A study conducted in Italy shows that statins may slow down the rate at which telomeres reduce in size – an important factor in our natural aging process. Therefore, this could pave the way for statins forming the basis of a revolutionary anti-ageing treatment.

“By telomerase activation, statins may represent a new molecular switch able to slow down senescent cells in our tissues and be able to lead healthy lifespan extension,” said Giuseppe Paolisso, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Internal Medicine, Surgical, Neurological Metabolic Disease and Geriatric Medicine at Second University of Naples in Naples, Italy.

Paolisso and colleagues divided their study participants into two groups; one group on statin therapy and a second, control group, who were not taking statins. Following an analysis of telomerase activity for both groups, those taking statins were found to have a higher activity within their white blood cells and thus less telomeres shortening in comparison to the control group. This shows the importance of telomerase activation in slowing down the development of many short telomeres.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing what a ‘telomere’ actually is though. The ends of our chromosomes are comprised of cells containing a DNA sequence that helps to prevent the threads of DNA from unravelling; a fraying effect as a consequence of cell division. These ends are known as telomeres. Due to the fact they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, telomeres are often compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces.

The importance of telomeres is because each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. If they shorten too much, the cell becomes unable to divide and becomes inactive, ‘senescent’ or simply dies. This has been linked to aging, cancer and an increased risk of death.

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