Statins May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Sleep Apnea

HealthDay News — Chronic inflammation of blood vessels in sleep apnea raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, but new findings suggest that taking statins might reduce that risk. The findings were published in Science Translational Medicine.

In the small, laboratory study, Sanja Jelic, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues examined endothelial cells from 76 adults with obstructive sleep apnea and 52 adults without sleep apnea. The adults were similar in terms of body fat percentage, daytime sleepiness symptoms, blood pressure, and underlying health conditions.

The researchers found that the protein CD59, a major complement inhibitor that protects endothelial cells from the membrane attack complex, was implicated in the intermittent hypoxia of sleep apnea. In patients with sleep apnea, the protein was often inside the cells as opposed to on the surface in the controls. This increased internalization of endothelial CD59 appeared to be cholesterol-dependent and reversed by statins in a CD59-dependent manner.

“If the beneficial effects of statins on blood vessel health in patients with obstructive sleep apnea is confirmed in larger clinical trials, obstructive sleep apnea may become an indication for statin therapy,” Dr Jelic told HealthDay. “Chronic inflammation of the blood vessels contributes to increased cardiovascular risk in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.”


Emin M, Wang G, Castagna F, et al. Increased internalization of complement inhibitor CD59 may contribute to endothelial inflammation in obstructive sleep apnea. Sci Transl Med. 2015; doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aad0634.