July 12, 2021

Probing statin-associated diseases with genetics

Vanderbilt researchers used genetics tools and biobanks with linked electronic health records to explore the associations between statins and noncardiovascular diseases.

by Leigh MacMillan

More than a quarter of U.S. adults 40 and older use statin therapy to lower circulating LDL cholesterol and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Statins have been reported to increase or decrease the risk of many other diseases, but the associations have been mostly inconclusive. 

To probe these associations, QiPing Feng, PhD, and colleagues used genetics tools and biobanks with linked electronic health records. 

They constructed genetic risk scores using variants in the gene HMGCR, which encodes the enzyme target of statins. The variants lower LDL cholesterol; they have a statin-like effect. The researchers analyzed associations between the genetic risk scores and 22 noncardiovascular phenotypes in 53,385 adults in Vanderbilt’s biobank BioVU and 30,444 adult records in the eMERGE consortium. 

They replicated a previously reported association between statin use and increased type 2 diabetes risk and found no other significant associations. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants GM120523, GM131770, HL133786), American Heart Association, and Vanderbilt Faculty Research Scholar Fund.