mbined use of metformin and atorvastatin attenuates atherosclerosis in rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet

Statins are widely used to reduce cardiovascular risk. Unfortunately, some patients still experience cardiovascular events though prescribed with high-intensity statins. Metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, was reported to possess anti-atherosclerotic effects. Therefore, the experiments were designed to evaluate whether combined use of metformin and atorvastatin can achieve additional benefits. In rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet, we evaluated the effects of the combination therapy on atherosclerotic plaques, lipid profiles, blood glucose levels, liver and kidney functions. Effects of combination therapy on cholesterol efflux and the expression of related transporters were studied in vitro. Our results showed that the combination therapy induced a more significant decrease in atherosclerotic lesion area than atorvastatin without additional lipid-lowering effect. The combination therapy significantly increased the percentage of large high-density lipoprotein subfraction. The intravenous glucose tolerance test showed that atorvastatin-treated rabbits had an increased area under the curve for time-dependent glucose levels after a bolus injection of glucose, which was completely reversed by metformin treatment. In cultured macrophages, co-treatment with metformin and atorvastatin promoted cholesterol efflux and up-regulated expression of ATP-binding cassette transporters A1 and G1. Taken together, our results suggest that atorvastatin/metformin combination therapy may achieve additional anti-atherosclerotic benefits likely through increasing cholesterol efflux in macrophages.

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