BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The drug pravastatin, which is used widely to decrease high cholesterol, may provide a previously unknown cardiovascular benefit in addition to lowering lipids.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo have found that pravastatin, the generic name of one of the statins currently prescribed to lower cholesterol, increased the concentration of endogenous stem cells that may participate in cardiac repair independent of any cholesterol-lowering action.
They also found that high doses of pravastatin improved cardiac function and coronary blood flow in an animal model in which flow had been artificially restricted, creating a condition known as hibernating myocardium. In this condition, heart cells reduce their function and oxygen needs and become dormant in response to insufficient blood flow.
Results of the study were presented today (Nov. 16, 2005) at the American Heart Association's 2005 Scientific Sessions in Dallas, Texas. "It is well known that stem cells have the potential to regenerate organs," said Gen Suzuki, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and first author on the study.
"In the field of cardiology, adult stem cells isolated from bone marrow currently are being used to repair damaged heart tissue," Suzuki said. "Many animal and early clinical studies using this source of stem cells are ongoing right now."
Earlier reports have shown that HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, known as statins, increased the number of circulating bone-marrow-derived or hematopoietic stem cells in blood, Suzuki said, but most work has focused on their effects in improving blood flow. Their localization in the heart or ability to increase cardiac-muscle-cell numbers has never been studied, he said.
The UB study employs a unique swine model of hibernating myocardium created by scientists in UB's Center for Research in Cardiovascular Medicine. Researchers treated normal pigs and pigs with hibernating myocardium with pravastatin for four weeks, and compared the results with normal pigs and pigs with hibernating myocardium that did not receive the statin.