Brains are high on cholesterol

Cholesterol-lowering drugs also work in the brain

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. This discovery caused quite a stir a few years ago. Scientists at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Bonn led by private lecturer Dr. Dr. Dieter Lütjohann are now clarifying step by step why statins inhibit the loss of brain matter in Alzheimer's disease. One of her latest findings: The concentrations of certain precursors of cholesterol and its breakdown product 24S-hydroxycholesterol in the CSF * drop when patients are treated with statins. "We suspect that under therapy with statins less cholesterol is formed in the brain and therefore less cholesterol is broken down," explains Lütjohann. This effect of the drugs was previously unknown - at the moment statins are primarily used to inhibit the formation of cholesterol in the liver and thus prevent atherosclerosis. Further studies are now to clarify how the drugs can also work in the central nervous system. The research work in Bonn receives financial support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Another observation by the scientists shows that the cholesterol metabolism in the brain must indeed have something to do with Alzheimer's. Because statins can also reduce the CSF concentration of ß-amyloid. This protein is of crucial importance for the development of Alzheimer's. Affected patients have massive amounts of pathological deposits of ß-amyloid in the brain. Lütjohann: "We have observed that the decrease in the ß-amyloid content and the concentration of 24S-hydroxycholesterol, a brain-specific breakdown product of cholesterol, correlate very well in the liquor. There are many indications that the cholesterol metabolism and the formation of ß -Amyloid closely related. "

Improve diagnostic options
The possibility of Alzheimer's therapy with statins is only one aspect of the research project. There are also new possibilities for diagnosing brain disease. 24S-hydroxycholesterol plays a key role in this. In humans, the substance is produced exclusively in the central nervous system. Only in the form of 24S-hydroxycholesterol can cholesterol cross the barrier between blood and brain tissue. The substance is therefore an excellent indicator of the cholesterol metabolism in the brain.

Lütjohann: "In Alzheimer's patients, the content of 24S-hydroxycholesterol in the CSF is permanently increased and in the blood at least in the early stages of the disease. That can help us to add another tool to diagnose Alzheimer's and to assess the course of the disease. "

* Liquor is the fluid that flows around the brain and spinal cord.

Contact Person:
Privatdozent Dr. Dr. Dieter Lütjohann
Department of Clinical Pharmacology
of the University of Bonn
Sigmund-Freud-Strasse 25
53105 Bonn
Tel .: 02 28/2 87-40 27
Fax: 02 28/2 87-60 94
Email: [email protected]