Statins, a popular set of drugs used to lower cholesterol, can result in muscle weakness and pain, and even debilitating and life-threatening muscle damage. A new study offers the first evidence that a gene known as atrogin-1 plays a key role in statin-related muscle toxicity.
Statins such as Lipitor, Zocor, Pavacol and Mevacor lower cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, a key enzyme in cholesterol synthesis. But they may also activate the gene atrogin-1 gene, which plays a key role in muscle atrophy.
Three separate tests showed that even at low concentrations, statin drugs led to atrogin-1 induced muscle damage. As the concentration was increased, the damage increased as well.