Statins, commonly used drugs for lowering cholesterol, also possess anti-aging properties, researchers have found.
According to the findings of the new study, statins cut the rate at which telomeres shorten, thus preventing aging and extending lifespan.
Telomere is an area of DNA strand typically present at the end of a chromosome. It plays the key role of protecting the chromosome from deterioration. It is believed that as a person ages, the length of telomeres shorten, limiting the cell division process. An impaired cell division process results in a reduced lifespan, researchers explained.
“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," study’s lead researcher, Giuseppe Paolisso from the Department of Internal Medicine, Surgical, Neurological Metabolic Disease and Geriatric Medicine at Second University of Naples in Italy, said.
For the purpose of the study, researchers enrolled 203 participants. Randomly divided into two groups, one group was prescribed the chronic statin therapy, while the other group was kept away from statins.
Researchers measured the telomerase activity in both the groups.
It was observed that the telomerase activity in white blood cells was higher in people who took statins as compared to those who did not use statins. A higher telomerase activity in the white blood cells is linked to lower levels of telomere shortening, researchers explained.
"The great thing about statins is that they reduce risks for cardiovascular disease significantly and are generally safe for most people. The bad thing is that statins do have side effects, like muscle injury," editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, Gerald Weissmann, marked. "But if it is confirmed that statins might actually slow aging itself—and not just the symptoms of aging—then statins are much more powerful drugs than we ever thought."
The findings of the study are published online in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.