Cholesterol genes identified10th August 2010
Scientists in the US have managed to associate human cholesterol susceptibility with several genetic patterns.
The finding will help pharmaceutical companies develop innovative new drugs that block proteins that in turn lead to clogged arteries.
Although having a healthy heart is usually something people cultivate by dieting and exercising, genetics are just as important.
In the current study, the researchers identified 95 regions of the human genome which directly relate to the way the body handles cholesterol.
Of the 95 regions, 59 were completely new to the scientific community at large.
Study co-author Daniel Radar, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania medical school, said that the new study provided scientists with a gold-mine of new discoveries.
Alan Shuldiner, a geneticist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not part of the study, said that the new finding was the first step toward a better understanding of cholesterol metabolism.
The researchers also identified four specific genes that seem to directly affect cholesterol levels.
One of the four genes they found seems to initiate a metabolic process that protects the body against high cholesterol levels.
However, the broader regions of DNA studied by the researchers probably do not contain all the genetic information the body uses to process fats.
Study leader Sekar Kathiresan, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, said he believed that a full tally of the genes involved would be completed in the next three to five years.
To that end, the researchers are attempting to broaden their genetic sampling pool.
Kathiresan said that, once scientists have located all of the genes responsible for managing lipids in the body, they would begin to ask themselves which of the genes would end up helping patients.
He said that it would probably help researchers, at that stage, to cross-reference the genes with ones already associated with coronary artery disease and heart attack.
The current finding is based on data the researchers compiled from about 100,000 people's genetic records.
In particular, the scientists wanted to study a DNA sequence that influences the behaviour of a gene called SORT1.
People who have the genetic variation that affects SORT1 have an unusullay low risk of ever having a heart attack.
Using the data, the researchers identified subtle features of the human genome which are only really accessible to scientists working with large amounts of data.
As a result, the researchers found variations of the genome that seemed specific to people with high cholesterol.
While the study does not explain everything about inheirited bad cholesterol, the researchers estimate that they have found the source of about 30% of inheirited cases.
Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said that the recent study illustrated the complexity of the body.
He said that scientists would need to do much more research in order to understand the way the genes, that the study identified, interacted.
Statin drugs such as Lipitor and Crestor, which control cholesterol, are among the best-selling drugs of all time.
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Title: Cholesterol genes identified
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 15717
Date Added: 10th Aug 2010