Background: Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) accumulates features of a chronic inflammatory disorder and irreversible destruction of connective tissue. A recent experimental study identified c-Jun N terminal kinase (JNK) as a proximal signaling molecule in the pathogenesis of AAA and vascular dendritic cells as key players in the inflammatory reaction and degradation of the extracellular matrix. Statins can inhibit cell proliferation and vascular inflammation, which might help prevent AAA progression. However, supporting clinical data from human studies are lacking. We hypothesized that atorvastatin might inhibit JNK and dendritic cells, resulting in suppression of inflammatory cells and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in human tissue of AAA.
Methods: Patients with AAA were randomized to atorvastatin (20mg/day, n=10) and non-treated (n=10) groups. After treatment for 4 weeks, patients underwent abdominal aorta replacement, tissue specimens were obtained, and tissue composition was assessed using immunohistochemistry with quantitative image analysis.
Results: Atorvastatin significantly reduced expression of JNK (1.1% vs. 8.1%, P=0.0002) and dendritic cells (3.2 vs. 7.2, P=0.003) compared to controls. T cells (142 vs. 315, P=0.008), macrophages (13 vs. 24, P=0.048) and immunoreactivity to MMP-2 (7.8% vs. 21%, P=0.049) and MMP-9 (13% vs. 24%, P=0.028) were also suppressed in the atorvastatin group. Serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level was decreased by 40% in the atorvastatin group.
Conclusions: Atorvastatin treatment acutely reduces JNK expression and dendritic cells, resulting in reduced inflammatory cell content and expression of MMPs in the AAA wall.