Sprague Word

The future and more from Richard Sprague

Archive for January, 2005

Posted by sprague on January 21, 2005

A new article in S. Dorus et al. “Accelerated evolution of nervous system genes in the origin of Homo sapiens.” Cell 119, 1027-1040 (2004). says that genes known to be involved in brain size evolved very quickly, indicating strong selective pressure.

As The Guardian’s summary puts it, quoting Bruce Lahn, an assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute:

Professor Lahn’s research, published this week in the journal Cell, suggests that humans evolved their cognitive abilities not owing to a few sporadic and accidental genetic mutations – as is the usual way with traits in living things – but rather from an enormous number of mutations in a short period of time, acquired though an intense selection process favouring complex cognitive abilities.

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Oleic acid and cancer prevention

Posted by sprague on January 11, 2005

Work being reported today by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Evanston, Illinois claims to show that oleic acid dramatically cuts the levels of a gene called Her-2/neu, which is associated with aggressive tumors in many breast cancers.

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Posted by sprague on January 8, 2005

Why take statins? asks a reader. Here’s my answer:

I’m persuaded by the evidence of the 4S study that shows in a double-blind placebo test of over 4,000 adults, simvastatin (i.e. Zocor) helps in the area that counts most: heart disease. This study proves a long-term ability of Zocor to keep you alive, period. Is it because statins lower cholesterol? We think so, but even if there’s some other reason (like something to do with c-reactive protein), I know for sure that simvastatin helps me.

Side effects are of course a potential problem, but I haven’t noticed any in myself, and there are side effects to everything you do. You have to balance the risks and the rewards.

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Zocor makes you dumber!

Posted by sprague on January 6, 2005

Reuters reports on a study by Dr. Matthew F. Muldoon, from the University of Pittsburgh, that shows a slight negative affect on cognitive functioning by users of Zocor.

Here’s the abstract from
American Journal of Medicine, December 1, 2004.

In our initial study of the potential effects of cholesterol-lowering interventions on cognitive functioning, treatment with lovastatin as compared with placebo caused performance decrements on several neuropsychological tests, whereas scores on other tests were unaffected. The current study was designed to confirm and extend those findings.

The study comprised 308 hypercholesterolemic adults between 35 and 70 years of age. Employing a randomized double-blind design, we assigned participants to daily treatment with placebo, 10 mg of simvastatin, or 40 mg of simvastatin for 6 months. A neuropsychological test battery was administered to assess cognitive functioning at baseline and at the end of the treatment period.

A total of 283 subjects completed the study: 94 subjects on placebo, 96 taking 10 mg of simvastatin, and 93 taking 40 mg of simvastatin. Compared with placebo, decremental effects of simvastatin treatment were found on tests previously observed to be sensitive to statins (P = 0.008; difference in summary z scores = 0.18; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.07 to 0.29) and on tests not previously administered (P = 0.04; difference in summary z scores = 0.17; 95% CI: 0.05 to 0.29), but not on tests previously observed to be insensitive to statins (P = 0.84; difference in summary z scores = 0.02; 95% CI: -0.07 to 0.10). For the three tests specifically affected by simvastatin, effects on cognitive performance were small, manifest only as failure to improve during the 6 months of treatment (compared with placebo), and were confounded by baseline differences on one test.

This study provides partial support for minor decrements in cognitive functioning with statins. Whether such effects have any long-term sequelae or occur with other cholesterol-lowering interventions is not known.

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Posted by sprague on January 6, 2005

Clayton Cramer’s BLOG has a summary of the recent news about Zocor and memory loss.

His conclusion: avoid statins unless you absolutely need them.

I’m less inclined to jump to such a quick conclusion. Zocor is definitely a powerful drug, but with zillions of users taking it for many years, the adverse effects must be very low if they exist at all.

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