Statins and the role of nitric oxide in chronic heart failure

Stephan Von Haehling, Stefan D. Anker, Eberhard Bassenge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Endothelial dysfunction plays an important role in a number of cardiovascular diseases. An important pathogenetic factor for the development of endothelial dysfunction is lack of nitric oxide (NO), which is a potent endothelium-derived vasodilating substance. 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins), originally designed to lower plasma cholesterol levels, seem to ameliorate endothelial dysfunction by a mechanism so far only partly understood. However, statins increase nitric oxide synthase activity. It has been speculated that this and other "side effects" of statin treatment are due to inhibition of Rho, an intracellular signalling protein that initiates Rho kinase transcription. Moreover, statins possess anti-inflammatory characteristics. Some statins have proven to lower plasma levels of C-reactive protein, which is induced by pro-inflammatory cytokines. Other statins have been demonstrated to directly inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine induction. Finally, some data suggest that statins might be able to counterbalance an increased production of oxygen free radicals. Since chronic heart failure is accompanied not only by endothelial dysfunction, but also by pro-inflammatory cytokine activation and enhanced formation of oxygen free radicals, it is tempting to speculate that statins might be an ideal candidate to treat certain features of this disease. The doses needed to achieve the desired effects might be much lower than those needed to treat hypercholesterolemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalHeart Failure Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003


  • Chronic heart failure
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Nitric oxide
  • Statin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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