Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) collaborated with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to conduct a large study of data. They’re the team who discovered the association between high cholesterol and motor neurone disease. Dr Alastair Nouce, from QMUL, said: “This is the largest study to date looking at causal risk factors for motor neurone disease. “We saw that higher levels of LDL cholesterol were causally linked with a greater risk of the disease.”
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
High levels of LDL cholesterol raises a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke.
Dr Nouce noted that we have “well-established drugs that can lower cholesterol”, such as statins.
He announced: “We should look into whether they could protect against this terrible disease, which currently has no cure.”
The disease he is speaking of is motor neurone disease, said to be a “fatal neurodegenerative disease”.
The condition affects the brain and nerves, affecting up to 5,000 adults in the UK at any one time.
Early warning signs of the condition include:
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty swallowing food
- Muscle cramps
Brain Research UK said motor neurone disease “rapidly” progresses as it attacks the nerve cells that control movement.
“Motor neurones control important muscle activity such as gripping, walking, speaking, swallowing and breathing,” explained the charity.
“As these nerves are attacked, messages gradually stop reaching muscles. This initially leads to weakness and wasting and then, eventually, severe paralysis and breathing difficulties.”
A person’s mental capabilities aren’t usually affected, therefore a person is aware of their deteriorating condition.
One of the most famous cases of motor neurone disease is that of Professor Stephen Hawking.
Am I at risk of motor neurone disease?
Most people diagnosed with the condition are over the age of 50, although Professor Hawking received a diagnosis at 21 years old.
Data suggests that men are more at risk of developing the disease than women.
A small number of sufferers, up to 10 percent, have a family history of motor neurone disease.
However, this statistic also highlights that most cases of motor neurone disease aren’t thought to be linked to genetic susceptibility.
The devastating disease can kill a third of people diagnosed with the condition within one year.
Brain Research said: “There is no cure, and no effective treatment.”
This is why QMUL researchers hope to evaluate “the use of cholesterol-modifying drugs in people at risk of motor neurone disease”.