THURSDAY, Aug. 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've spotted a key metabolic pathway controlling blood levels of HDL "good" cholesterol in mice.
The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine team said that if this pathway operates the same way in humans, it could help in the development of new therapies that boost HDL to protect against heart disease.
The findings are published in the August issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
"By and large, the medicines now available lower levels of the 'bad' low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)," researcher Weijun Jin said in a prepared statement. "There is a great need for methods to raise good cholesterol levels. Our findings suggest there may be multiple places to interrupt the metabolism of HDL-C."
While LDL can build up in blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, HDL carries cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, where the cholesterol is broken down and eliminated from the body.
In this study, the researchers found they could manipulate levels of certain enzymes -- proprotein convertases and endothelial lipases -- in order to increase or decrease HDL levels in mice. The findings suggest that it may be possible to adjust the amount of HDL to specific levels.
Jin emphasized that these findings are from basic research in animals, and it's not clear if this pathway also operates in humans.
The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.