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PCSK9 genetic variants, life-long lowering of LDL-cholesterol and cognition: a large-scale Mendelian randomization study

By Donald M Lyall, Joey Ward, Maciej Banach, George Davey Smith, Jason Gill, Jill P Pell, Michael V Holmes, Naveed Sattar

Posted 31 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/335877

Aims: PCSK9 inhibitors lower LDL cholesterol and are efficacious at reducing risk of vascular disease, however questions remain about potential adverse effects on cognitive function. We examined the association of LDL cholesterol-lowering genetic variants in PCSK9 with continuous measures of cognitive ability. Methods and Results: Six independent SNPs in PCSK9 were used in up to 337,348 individuals from the UK Biobank who underwent measures of cognitive ability (fluid reasoning, reaction time, trial making test and digit symbol coding. Scaled to a 50mg/dL lower LDL cholesterol, the PCSK9 allele score was associated with a lower risk of CHD (odds ratio 0.73; 95% CI: 0.60 to 0.90, P = 0.003). The scaled PCSK9 allele score nominally associated with worse log reaction time (0.04 standard deviations; 95%CI: 0.00, 0.08; P=0.038). Although no strong associations of the PCSK9 allele score were identified with any cognitive trait, the imprecision around the estimates meant that we could not exclude a similar magnitude of effect of genetic inhibition of PCSK9 to that seen with established risk factors, including APOEe4 or smoking status for any of the individual cognition traits. Point estimates for the PCSK9 allele score and cognition traits were all on the harmful side of unity. Conclusions: Using currently available data in UK Biobank, we are not able to rule out meaningful associations of PCSK9 genetic variants with cognition traits. These data highlight the need for further large-scale genetic analyses and, in parallel, continued pharmacovigilance for patients currently treated with PCSK9 inhibitors.

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