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New Risk Factor for Atherosclerosis Identified

High levels of endothelial lipase associated with coronary artery calcification

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Endothelial lipase (EL), a molecule previously associated with atherosclerosis in mice, may also be a risk factor for atherosclerosis in humans, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in the open access Public Library of Science Medicine.

Karen Badellino, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues drew blood from 858 healthy patients with a family history of premature coronary heart disease, before and after administration of a single dose of intravenous heparin. They enzymatically measured plasma lipids, assessed lipoprotein subclasses by nuclear magnetic resonance, quantified coronary artery calcification by electron beam computed tomography and measured plasma EL mass with a newly developed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.

The researchers found that EL mass concentrations in both pre- and post-heparin plasma significantly correlated with all National Cholesterol Education Program-defined metabolic syndrome factors, including waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and fasting glucose. After adjusting for age, gender, waist circumference, vasoactive medications, hormone replacement therapy in women and established cardiovascular risk factors, they determined that EL mass in both routine and post-heparin plasma was associated with coronary artery calcification.

"EL may be a pro-atherogenic factor in humans, especially in overweight individuals and those with metabolic syndrome," the authors conclude. "Prospective studies will be needed to determine if EL is, indeed, a risk factor."

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