Scientists believe that statins – a drug commonly used to reduce cholesterol and the risk of stroke in adults – could be used to protect against motor neurone disease.
According to the report, published by the Queen Mary University of London, high cholesterol has been found to be a possible risk factor for the development of the disease.
Looking at genetic datasets of around 25 million people, the researchers found a possible causal link with the risk of MND and high cholesterol levels and associated lifestyles.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Alastair Noyce, from Queen Mary’s Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said: “This is the largest study to-date looking at causal risk factors for motor neurone disease and we saw that higher levels of LDL cholesterol were causally linked with a greater risk of the disease.
“We have well-established drugs that can lower cholesterol and we should look into whether they could protect against this terrible disease, which currently has no cure.”
Statistics from 2017 suggest that around four million people in the UK currently take statins to lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of a person developing cardiovascular disease.
Dr Noyce said the next steps include studying whether “lowering levels of cholesterol might have a protective effect against MND” and “potentially evaluating the use of cholesterol-modifying drugs in people at risk of MND”.
Motor Neurone disease, sometimes known as MND, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. The disease primarily affects adults over the age of 50, with the prevalence of the disease expected to double by 2040 due to the ageing of the global population.
The most common symptoms include weakness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing food, muscle cramps and twitches, while others may also experience changes to their thinking and behaviour.