Canadian researchers discover cause of high cholesterol, which could result in new drugs
By Isobel Teotonio, Toronto Star, October 29, 2012
The breakthrough discovery of a protein that causes high cholesterol could lead to new revolutionary drugs that cut the risk of heart disease, according to a study presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.
Dr. Shirya Rashid and her research team discovered that a protein called resistin, which is secreted by fat tissue, causes high levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein).
Resistin increases the production of LDL and impairs LDL receptors in the liver, making it more difficult for the liver to clear bad cholesterol from the body. It also likely speeds up the rate at which LDL accumulates in the arteries, boosting the risk of heart disease.
The discovery is an important finding because there have been very few factors or proteins identified that directly affects blood LDL cholesterol levels, said Rashid, an assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University.
The study, which has already appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that resistin blocks statins from working effectively. (Statins are medications used to lower cholesterol and other fats in the body, which may reduce risk of heart attack or stroke.)
That could explain why for about 40 per cent of people taking statins, the treatment simply isn’t working, said Rashid, adding her team’s discovery presents those individuals with new hope.
Rashid believes the findings could lead to new therapeutic drugs that target and inhibit resistin and boost the effectiveness of statins.
“There’s a new hope for people for whom statins have not been working,” said Rashid. “They have a new hope to reduce their cardiovascular risk and risk of heart disease.”
“There are millions of us that have high cholesterol that aren’t reaching our cholesterol targets and are at high risk for cardiovascular diseases. And those individuals need the promise of new medications that can more effectively target their LDL cholesterol.”
About 40 per cent of Canadians have high cholesterol levels. Cutting cholesterol is key because high levels can lead to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls and narrow the arteries, making it tougher for blood to flow through a person’s heart and body.