A commonly prescribed statin has been found to reduce inflammation in the brains of mice following surgery – a process that can lead to post-operative cognitive dysfuntion and Alzheimer’s disease. This is according to a study published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

Researchers from Imperial College London in the UK, led by Dr. Daqing Ma, say the findings could lead to atoravastatin – a drug commonly used to treat high cholesterol – undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD).

For the study, the researchers gave atoravastatin to mice orally for 5 days prior to undergoing kidney surgery.

On monitoring the mice following surgery, atoravastatin was found to reduce inflammation within their brains, as well as protect neurons and improve their memory.

The researchers say that in normal mice, surgery usually triggers a decline in performance on memory tests following the procedure.

However, they note that pre-treating the mice with atoravastatin appeared to prevent this decline, as well as demonstrate protection against the negative effects of surgical procedures.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK organization that funded the study, problems with memory recall and concentration are common in people who undergo major surgery under anesthesia.

They add that if these symptoms persist, it is defined as POCD. These patients may then go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, the Society emphasizes that by 2020, people over the age of 65 are predicted to become the largest age group to require surgery, meaning the number of people who may experience POCD could be set to increase.

Dr. Ma says:

Sometimes having an operation is unavoidable, especially for elderly people.

We shouldn’t ignore the potential side effects such as memory impairment following surgery – these should be prevented or treated wherever possible.”

He adds that although the method used in this study is a step closer to developing potential preventive treatments for POCD, further studies are warranted.

Dr. Doug Brown, director of Research and Development at the Alzheimer’s Society, agrees that although the study findings are promising, further research is needed before atoravastatin can enter clinical trials for the treatment of POCD and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Further studies will give us a better understanding of the biology behind this and determine whether atorvastatin may be a good candidate drug to test in the elderly undergoing surgery,” says Dr. Brown.

“Ultimately, clinical trials are needed to see if the statin could indeed protect our brains too, as well as in mice.”

Medical News Today recently reported on a study suggesting that peanut butter can help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.