Statins may hold key to stopping multiple sclerosis
Statins may hold the answer to slowing the deterioration of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), scientists have said.
In a new trial hailed as "highly promising", patients who took the daily pill retained their co-ordination better and suffered less brain shrinkage than those given a placebo.
It raises the prospect that MS sufferers may be prescribed the common cholesterol-busting drug to improve their symptoms.
However, scientists are more excited about identifying the potential mystery ingredient of the medication in order to develop a bespoke treatment for the disease.
Derived from fungi, statins are naturally occurring, meaning that, unlike most drugs which are engineered for a particular molecular target, they still have many unknown qualities, despite decades of use.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) observed 140 MS sufferers with secondary progressive MS, whereby disability gets steadily worse following a phase of alternating stable-relapsing MS.
Over two years they noted that those given a high daily dose - 80mg - of simvastatin suffered 43pc less brain volume loss compared to those on a placebo, while their disability levels progressed more slowly.
Published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', the results will feed into a much larger trial which, if successful, could allow watchdogs to licence the drug for routine use for MS.
Professor Jeremy Chataway, who will lead the new research, said: "Simvastatin is one of the most promising treatment prospects in our lifetime.
"People with this form of the condition have been waiting decades for a drug that works, which is why there's such excitement around being able to start the trial. While it's still early days, we believe simvastatin could change lives."