Boston, MA-- New findings from an in vitro study, led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), show that the combination of statins and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid, may potentially reduce cardiovascular risk. This research is being presented May 1 at a peer-reviewed poster session at the National Lipid Association Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida.
"We know that endothelial cell dysfunction is emerging as an early and important predictor of cardiovascular disease and plays an essential role in plaque development. Treatments that provide beneficial effects on endothelial function could have very important implications for a patient population at high risk for heart disease," said R. Preston Mason, PhD, of BWH's Department of Medicine and lead author of the study. "We found that a combination of statins and EPA omega-3 fatty acid, or fish oil, had beneficial effects on endothelial cells and function."
Using human tissue, researchers analyzed whether EPA could enhance the benefits of statins on endothelial cells. Blood vessels from human umbilical vein cells were collected from healthy donors and then subjected to disease-like conditions in the laboratory using oxidized low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Using nanotechnology approaches, researchers measured the release of molecules from the endothelial cells including nitric oxide, an essential regulator of blood vessel health. The researchers found that the combination of EPA and a statin was more than 50 percent better than the statin alone in reversing endothelial damage.
Researchers conclude that there is a potent and favorable interaction between the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, and widely used statins, and suggest that a therapeutic strategy with this combination may be beneficial patients with increased risk for CV disease.
These new results may also underscore the importance of coupling high-quality statin therapies with an omega-3 agent such as EPA in potentially reducing cardiovascular risk, in addition to treating elevated triglycerides. High circulating triglyceride levels are considered a risk factor associated with cardiovascular disease, along with HDL, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. New strategies to help patients manage this aspect of cardiovascular risk show promise in the overall prevention and treatment of heart disease.
The researchers note that future research is needed, particularly in humans, including cardiovascular outcomes data in randomized clinical trials.
The study was done in collaboration with investigators at Elucida Research in Beverly, MA and Ohio University in Athens, OH.
This investigator-initiated research was supported by Amarin Pharmaceuticals.
Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 793-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare. BWH has more than 3.5 million annual patient visits, is the largest birthing center in Massachusetts and employs nearly 15,000 people. The Brigham's medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in patient care, quality improvement and patient safety initiatives, and its dedication to research, innovation, community engagement and educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on human diseases, more than 1,000 physician-investigators and renowned biomedical scientists and faculty supported by nearly $650 million in funding. For the last 25 years, BWH ranked second in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) among independent hospitals. BWH continually pushes the boundaries of medicine, including building on its legacy in transplantation by performing a partial face transplant in 2009 and the nation's first full face transplant in 2011. BWH is also home to major landmark epidemiologic population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative. For more information, resources and to follow us on social media, please visit BWH's online newsroom.