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Genetic Link to Fat Absorption Found

Scientists narrow search for cholesterol-absorption genes

TUESDAY, Dec. 10, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Rockefeller University scientists say they've moved closer to finding the genes that cause some people to absorb more cholesterol into their blood than others.

In recent genetic studies with lab mice, the scientists narrowed the search to two chromosome regions, says a study in today's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Finding these genes in mice could help identify similar genes in humans and lead to new cholesterol-lowering drugs to combat heart disease.

The researchers used a technique called genetic linking mapping in their attempts to find the genes that regulate absorption of plant fatty molecules called plant sterols, which are markers of cholesterol absorption.

They were able to narrow the location of those genes to two distinct regions on chromosomes 2 and 14, and found an especially strong signal at chromosome 14. Even though they didn't pinpoint the exact location of the genes, the researchers did uncover the genes' general vicinity. They can now use a variety of techniques to identify the genes.

Some people absorb 25 percent of cholesterol from their diet, while other people absorb as much as 75 percent of the cholesterol from the foods they eat.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about the connection between cholesterol and heart disease.

SOURCE: Rockefeller University, news release, Dec. 9, 2002
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