Statins inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, the rate limiting enzyme in cholesterol biosynthesis, and are used to lower cholesterol levels in patients with, or at risk of, cardiovascular disease. In addition to reducing cholesterol levels, statins have also been shown to have direct effects on cells of the blood vessel walls. In patients with atherosclerosis, vascular smooth muscle cells show evidence of DNA damage and ‘premature ageing’.
A new study has identified a novel mechanism, involving Nijmegen breakage syndrome (NBS)-1 protein and the human double minute protein Hdm2, by which statins are able to accelerate DNA repair. This means that, in addition to their beneficial effect on cholesterol levels, statins are also able to slow the ageing process in the diseased arteries.
Statins can also reduce DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation or cytotoxic drugs and could be useful as an adjunct to cancer treatment.