NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – With their antiproliferative effects, high doses of statins reduce the ability of muscle progenitor cells (i.e., satellite cells) to repair and regenerate, according to research reported at the American Physiological Society conference – The Integrative Biology of Exercise V, which wrapped up Saturday in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

“There is increased interest in the antiproliferative effects of statins,” study presenter Dr. Anna Thalacker-Mercer from University of Alabama at Birmingham told Reuters Health. “Satellite cells have to proliferate in order to repair and regenerate muscle, so perhaps statins are decreasing proliferation of satellite cells and that might be some of the adverse effects that are occurring in the muscle.”

Dr. Thalacker-Mercer and colleagues isolated human satellite cells, grew them in culture, and treated them with statins, “and we did find that cell viability and proliferation was decreased,” she said.

The satellite cells were isolated from quadriceps muscle biopsies, mixed with several concentrations of simvastatin and grown for 48 hours. Results showed a dose-dependent decrease of up to 60% in satellite cell viability at 1.0, 10, and 100 µM of simvastatin.

At a concentration of approximately 5.0 µM — equivalent to the availability of simvastatin in circulation from a 40 milligram dose per day used in some patients — the viability of the proliferating cells was reduced by half.

“While these are preliminary data and more research is necessary,” Dr. Thalacker-Mercer said, “the results indicate serious adverse effects of statins that may alter the ability of skeletal muscle to repair and regenerate due to the antiproliferative effects of statins.”

Some research, she noted, suggests that satellite cell viability and number decrease with age. “If the satellite cell population is less in an aging adult or isn’t able to proliferate like in a younger person, then adding statins on top of that you may have double whammy,” she added.