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Do the pleiotropic effects of statins in the vasculature predict a role in inflammatory diseases?

David W McCarey1, Naveed Sattar2 and Iain B McInnes1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK

2 Department of Vascular Biochemistry, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, UK

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Arthritis Res Ther 2005, 7:55-61  doi:10.1186/ar1496

Published: 21 January 2005


Pleiotropic effects are now described for the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (or statins) that might have utility in the context of chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Here we discuss the pharmacology and established uses of statins and in this context describe potential anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effects. An extensive in vitro data set defines roles for statins in modifying endothelial function, particularly with respect to adhesion molecule expression and apoptosis. Broader effects on leukocyte function have now emerged including altered adhesion molecule expression, cytokine and chemokine release and modulation of development of adaptive immune responses via altered MHC class II upregulation. In vivo data in several inflammatory models, including collagen-induced inflammatory arthritis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, suggest that such effects might have immune-modulatory potential. Finally, a recent clinical trial has demonstrated immunomodulatory effects for statins in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Together with their known vasculoprotective effects, this growing body of evidence provides compelling support for longer-term trials of statin therapy in human disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.