Statins may be new weapon against Alzheimer’s

Seattle: The family of anti-cholesterol drugs called statins and taken by millions around the world, can protect against Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.

An examination of brain tissue has provided the first direct evidence that statins – taken to prevent heart disease and strokes – can also ward off dementia and memory loss. The study is published in the American Journal of Neurology.

The new findings s come from a study of 110 brains – donated for medical research – at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. The researchers led by Dr Gail Li examined the brains for changes linked to Alzheimer’s -including the creation of ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ made from the protein called beta amyloid.

These changes appear in the brain long before any symptoms of dementia develop. Eventually, they damage enough brain cells to trigger confusion, memory loss and eventually death. The researchers found far fewer tangles in the brains of people who had taken statins, compared to those who had not.

The findings were true even after age, sex and the history of strokes were taken into account. This is the first study to compare the brains of people who took statins with those who did not.

Dr Eric Larson, study co-author said: “These results are exciting, novel and have important implications for prevention strategies.”

Statins work by blocking the action of a chemical in the liver which is needed to make the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol, LDL. Reducing levels of bad cholesterol keeps blood vessels unclogged.

The researchers are not sure how statins also prevent the buildup of protein tangles in the brain. They suspect that a healthy flow of blood is a key factor.

Another study, five year’s ago at Boston University found that statins may cut the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 79 per cent, even in people with a family history of the disease. Some small- scale studies have found an apparent link between statins and cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Other studies, however, suggest that the drugs can ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.

UK patients implanted with stolen body parts, authorities admit

London: London: UK patients have been implanted with stolen body parts which may be potentially contaminated, the country’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority has confirmed.

Over 70 pieces of bone have been grafted into the patients in 20 hospitals in the UK after they were imported from the New Jersey company Biomedical Tissue Services (BTS). The company which has now been shut down and is under investigation by the US Food & Drug Administration.

The imported bones were harvested by the firm from corpses in US funeral parlours without the deceased family’s consent and without proper checks to ensure the bodies were disease free. The stolen bodies included that of veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke, who died of cancer last year, aged 95.

Although many of the bones were recalled after a safety alert, 77 implants had already been grafted into the hips and jaw bones of British patients. These patients have been offered screening for diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphillis which can be transmitted from the bones of the dead.

The scandal has exposed a growing trade in body tissue, bones and ligaments which are harvested in the US and exported around the world. In the US it is illegal to sell bodies directly to the US tissue banks which take ownership of the bodies after death but they sell them on to commercial companies who harvest, store and process the samples.

Imports to the UK have increased as there is a shortage of these parts which are used to repair serious fractures and as dental implants.

The UK government responsible for monitoring this trade, the Human Tissue Authority does not know which countries export skin, bone and ligaments to Britain or even the quantities.

The export of the particularly batch to Britain by BTS is confirmed by the Medicines and Healthcare products REgulatory Authority, the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of medical treatments. They said the patients had received what is known as allografts to fill holes in jaws and hip bones.

Regulators say the chance of infection is low as the bones were steralised prior to implantation.

The company BTS was forced to close last autumn after allegations that it had forged consent forms and other documents to gain access to dead bodies from undertakers.

Among the bodies desecrated was that of Alistair Cooke, whose bones were stolen and recyled. The US authories also claim that BTS did not carry out proper screening of the bodies. Also the bones of elderly people may not be suitable for transplants as they are more likely to have degenerative bone diseases such as osteroporosis.

The director of the company, Michael Mastromarina, a dentist who lost his practising licence because of drug addiction, and two assistants, face criminal charges including soliciting undertakers to prove illegally body parts such as tendons, skin and bone from corpses.