Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biology of flushing could renew niacin as cholesterol drug

08.04.2009
Deft molecular detective work at Duke University Medical Center suggests that scientists may soon be able to resurrect niacin as one of the best and cheapest ways to manage cholesterol.

Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3, has long been regarded as one of the most effective weapons in managing cholesterol. It can lower levels of triglycerides, fatty acids and to a lesser extent, the "bad" kind of cholesterol (LDL) while at the same time powerfully increasing the "good" kind (HDL).

But there's a catch – a big one. Patients don't like to take niacin because in most of them, it causes embarrassing, uncontrollable intense flushing, a rush of blood to the face and other skin surfaces accompanied by a prickling sensation.

Now, however, scientists have identified the discrete molecular pathways that are triggered when niacin enters the body, and they say that knowledge may lead to a revival of niacin-based treatments as therapies of choice. Their discovery appears online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and is scheduled to appear in the journal's May 1 issue.

"This opens up whole new realms for drug discovery," says Robert Walters, M.D., a dermatologist at Duke and the lead author of the study. "Not only could it lead to new niacin-based therapies for cholesterol that patients could actually stick with, but it could also mean new treatments for flushing that comes with some types of allergic reactions, hives and other disorders."

The discovery builds upon a growing body of knowledge at Duke about G protein coupled receptors, molecules that dot cell surfaces throughout the body and manage its response to drugs, hormones, pain, growth factors and many other incoming chemical signals. Robert Lefkowitz, M.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at Duke and the senior author of the study, was the first to identify these receptors and some of the roles they play in health and well-being.

Working together, Lefkowitz and Walters conducted various laboratory and animal experiments to track exactly what happens when niacin enters the body. Earlier, others had found that it first activates a specific G protein coupled receptor known as GP109A. This receptor, in turn, alerts other sets of proteins, including G proteins and a group referred to as beta-arrestins. One particular protein in that group, beta-arrestin1, was found to trigger the chemical reaction that led to flushing.

"Niacin stimulates production of a vasodilator that dramatically increases blood flow to the face, causing the flush and the hot, prickly sensation – and beta-arrestin1 is the culprit that enables that to happen," says Walters. "Interestingly, however, beta-arrestin1 plays no role whatsoever in niacin's ability to lower cholesterol and fatty acids. The G proteins do that."

The finding reinforces some of Lefkowitz's recent research that demonstrated that beta-arrestins, which often work in tandem with G proteins, can sometimes work independently of them, initiating their own signals.

Lefkowitz says the discovery opens the door to the possibility of developing a "biased ligand," a drug that would trigger GP109A, but not the beta-arrestins. "That might give us a way to keep all the lipid-modifying benefits of niacin, but isolate its downside," he said.

That might not be as simple as it sounds, however. Other studies suggest that enhancing niacin's ability to boost HDL may be more complex than what appears at, well, first blush.

"GPR109A receptors are most often found in fat, the spleen , adrenal glands and lungs – they are absent from the liver and intestines, where most HDL is made and metabolized, so there may well be other mechanisms of action for the beneficial effects of niacin in addition to those performed by GPR109A," says Lefkowitz.

Lefkowitz is a scientific founder of Trevena, a company that is developing G protein coupled receptor-targeted drugs.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Dermatology Foundation Physician Scientists Career Development Award to Dr. Walters.

Colleagues from Duke who contributed to the study include Arun Shukla, Jeffrey Kovacs, Christopher Lam and Erin Whalen, from the department of medicine, Jonathan Violin, from the department of biochemistry, Scott DeWire and J. Ruthie Chen, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Michael Muehlbauer, from the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center.

Michelle Gailiun | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

27.02.2017 | Information Technology

Fraunhofer IFAM expands its R&D work on Coatings for protection against corrosion and marine growth

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>