Dr. Darrell Neufer (from left), Dr. John Thyfault and Dr. Chien-Te Lin examine muscle tissue under a microscope. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

Millions of people in the U.S. take statins, a class of drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and other health problems. Now, researchers at East Carolina University and the University of Kansas are taking a closer look at one of the side effects of statins in order to better understand the potential impact of daily usage.

Dr. Darrell Neufer, director of the East Carolina Diabetes and Obesity Institute, and Dr. John Thyfault, associate professor of physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, have been awarded a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to evaluate the impact of statins on mitochondrial function in muscle tissue.

Previous studies in mice suggest that statins might negatively impact the function of mitochondria — the parts of cells that break down nutrients to create energy — in muscle, Neufer said. And research published by Thyfault found that patients taking statins while starting an exercise program didn’t see the full benefit of the exercise.

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Originally published Sept. 25, 2017. Written by Jules Norwood. Photos by Cliff Hollis.

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