Purpose: Simvastatin (SIM), a HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor widely prescribed for hypercholesterolemia, has been reported to ameliorate inflammation and promote osteogenesis. Its clinical applications on these potential secondary indications, however, have been hampered by its lack of osteotropicity and poor water solubility. To address this challenge, we propose to design and evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of a novel simvastatin prodrug with better water solubility and bone affinity. Method: The prodrug (SIM-PPi) was synthesized by directly conjugating a SIM trimer to a pyrophosphate (PPi). It was characterized and evaluated in vitro for its water solubility, osteotropicity, toxicity, anti-inflammatory and osteoinductive properties. It was then tested for anti-inflammatory and osteoinductive properties in vivo by three weekly injections into gingiva of a ligature-induced experimental periodontitis rat model. Results: In vitro studies showed that SIM-PPi has greatly improved water-solubility of SIM and shows strong binding to hydroxyapatite (HA). In macrophage culture, SIM-PPi inhibited LPS-induced pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6). In osteoblast culture, it was found to significantly increase alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity with accelerated mineral deposition, confirming the osteogenic potential of SIM-PPi. When tested in vivo on an experimental periodontal bone-loss model, SIM-PPi exhibited a superior prophylactic effect compared to dose equivalent SIM in reducing inflammatory cells and in preserving alveolar bone structure, as shown in the histological and micro-CT data. Conclusion: SIM-PPi may have the potential to be further developed for better clinical management of bone loss associated with periodontitis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • periodontal bone loss
  • periodontitis
  • prodrug
  • pyrophosphate
  • simvastatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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