24 June 2010
Cholesterol, a wax like substance, is the main culprit in heart disease. Although the body needs it, a high level of cholesterol causes blockage of arteries thereby reducing blood circulation causing a heart attack.
A class of drugs called ‘statins’ which lower the cholesterol level – by inhibiting a key enzyme responsible for its biosynthesis in the body – are extensively used as oral drugs to treat "hypercholesterolemia."
Although they are very effective in reducing cholesterol levels in humans, there is a growing concern that chronic use may cause depression.
Why should change in the level of a small greasy molecule in the body lead to changes in complex behavioural manifestations such as mood has been a puzzle and there has been no evidence to explain it.
But now a paper by Amitabha Chattopadhyay from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad published in the journal Biochemistry sheds insight into the link between use of statins and mood disorders. The scientists have shown that chronic cholesterol depletion by statins impairs the function of the receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that controls mood.
The group has previously shown that maintaining normal cholesterol levels is important for the function of serotonin. Their latest study showed that cholesterol depletion in the brain affects the function of serotonin receptors leading to depression.
Their results showed that longterm treatment with the drug caused significant changes in the structure and function of serotonin receptors. Adding cholesterol to cells treated with statin restored the function of the receptor to normal level. IANS