Statins, which include any drug name with a suffix -statin, are a class of medications commonly prescribed to treat high lipids, or cholesterol, with the intention of lowering risks of cardiovascular disease. They are also important to stabilize stents placed for heart blockages, and to help prevent recurrent stroke phenomena. Statins block an enzyme, mercifully abbreviated HMG-CoA reductase, which limits the amount of cholesterol made in the liver. However, side effects include liver damage, muscle and tendon toxicity, and cataract formation with long-term use. Newer evidence (1,2,3) shows statins adversely hurt stem cell function. Put another way, the body’s ability to develop new cartilage and bone is hindered with statin use.
Stem cells have been used to reduce inflammation and promote cartilage growth in arthritic joints. But when stem cells are injected in an orthopedic procedure while on statins, their efficacy is adversely affected. In fact, the effects by statins on stem cells is so strong that statins have shown promise in cancer treatment by reducing tumor growth by 80% (3,4) ! Although positive for the field of oncology, statin use is not desirable when applied to orthopedics, where their use can reduce or eliminate any constructive effect a stem cell injection would have on conditions such as arthritis.
Patients who are considering stem cell injections should discuss with their cardiologist or prescribing physician whether the option of stopping statins is safe for them, and special caution is needed if prior vascular stents or stroke history is present.
1. Mohammadi,M, et al: Clinical use of statins in hematopoetic stem cell transplantation: Old drugs and new horizons. Intl J Hematol Oncol Stem Cell Res. 2016; 10 (1): 42-50.
2. Izadpanah, R, et al: The impact of statins on biological characteristics of stem cells provides a novel explanation for their pleiotropic beneficial and adverse clinical effects. Am J Physiol, Cell Physiol. 2015; 309 (8): C 522-31.
3. Renno, AL, et al: Decreased expression of stem cells markers by simvastatin in 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced breast cancer. Toxicol Pathol. 2015; 43 (3): 400-10.
4. Liu,S, et al: Simvastatin suppresses brest cancer proliferation induced by senescent cells. Sci Rep. 2015; 5: 17895.