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Notable advances in the clinic

Statins might protect against heart attacks, stroke and death even in people who have low cholesterol, according to results from a study involving nearly 18,000 subjects who had high levels of a C-reactive protein, which indicates inflammation. During the two-year trial, those subjects taking statins were almost 50% less likely to suffer a stroke or require either angioplasty or bypass surgery (N. Engl. J. Med. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0807646; 2008). Experts cautioned, however, that the long-term effects of statins are not fully clear and that tests for C-reactive protein levels are not cheap.

A study conducted in Russia found that a drug formerly approved as an antihistamine seemed to improve cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. In the study involving 183 subjects, those receiving the placebo had a higher rate of worsening Alzheimer's symptoms than their counterparts who received the medication Dimebon (Lancet 372, 207–215; 2008).

A drug used for years to treat high blood pressure, losartan, could potentially lessen the dangers associated with Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue that can cause life-threatening heart problems. In a preliminary trial involving 18 children with Marfan syndrome, the drug decreased the average rate of annual aortic enlargement—a risky heart change—from 3.5 millimeters in diameter to less than 0.5 millimeters (N. Engl. J. Med. 358, 2787–2795; 2008).

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Notable advances in the clinic. Nat Med 14, 1303 (2008).

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