Public Release:  Statins may slow human aging by protecting against telomere shortening: A feature of senescent cells

New research in The FASEB Journal suggests that statins protect against DNA shortening by telomerase activation and promote healthy aging free of age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Bethesda, MD--Not only do statins extend lives by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease, but new research in the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal suggests that they may extend lifespans as well. Specifically, statins may reduce the rate at which telomeres shorten, a key factor in the natural aging process. This opens the door for using statins, or derivatives of statins, as an anti-aging therapy.

"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.

To make this discovery, Paolisso and colleagues worked with two groups of subjects. The first group was under chronic statin therapy, and the second group (control), did not use statins. When researchers measured telomerase activity in both groups, those undergoing statin treatment had higher telomerase activity in their white blood cells, which was associated with lower telomeres shortening along with aging as compared to the control group. This strongly highlights the role of telomerase activation in preventing the excessive accumulation of short telomeres.

"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," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "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."

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Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx. The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is among the most cited biology journals worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.

FASEB is composed of 27 societies with more than 110,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Details: Virginia Boccardi, Michelangela Barbieri, Maria Rosaria Rizzo, Raffaele Marfella, Antonietta Esposito, Luigi Marano, and Giuseppe Paolisso. A new pleiotropic effect of statins in elderly: modulation of telomerase activity. FASEB J September 2013 27:3879-3885, doi:10.1096/fj.13-232066 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/27/9/3879.abstract

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