Exploring peripheral biomarkers of response to simvastatin supplementation in schizophrenia

Jihan K Zaki, Santiago G Lago, Benedetta Spadaro, Nitin Rustogi, Shiral S Gangadin, Jiri Benacek, Hemmo A Drexhage, Lot D de Witte, René S Kahn, Iris E C Sommer, Sabine Bahn*, Jakub Tomasik

*Corresponding author for this work

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Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating mental disorders, and its diagnosis and treatment present significant challenges. Several clinical trials have previously evaluated the effectiveness of simvastatin, a lipid-lowering medication, as a novel add-on treatment for schizophrenia. However, treatment effects varied highly between patients and over time. In the present study, we aimed to identify biomarkers of response to simvastatin in recent-onset schizophrenia patients. To this end, we profiled relevant immune and metabolic markers in patient blood samples collected in a previous clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01999309) before simvastatin add-on treatment was initiated. Analysed sample types included serum, plasma, resting-state peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), as well as PBMC samples treated ex vivo with immune stimulants and simvastatin. Associations between the blood readouts and clinical endpoints were evaluated using multivariable linear regression. This revealed that changes in insulin receptor (IR) levels induced in B-cells by ex vivo simvastatin treatment inversely correlated with in vivo effects on cognition at the primary endpoint of 12 months, as measured using the Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia scale total score (standardised β ± SE = -0.75 ± 0.16, P = 2.2 × 10 -4, Q = 0.029; n = 21 patients). This correlation was not observed in the placebo group (β ± SE = 0.62 ± 0.39, P = 0.17, Q = 0.49; n = 14 patients). The candidate biomarker explained 53.4 % of the variation in cognitive outcomes after simvastatin supplementation. Despite the small sample size, these findings suggest a possible interaction between the insulin signalling pathway and cognitive effects during simvastatin therapy. They also point to opportunities for personalized schizophrenia treatment through patient stratification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-74
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date19 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • B-cells
  • Biomarker
  • Clinical trial
  • Insulin receptor
  • Schizophrenia
  • Simvastatin


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