Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists identify cholesterol-regulating genes

08.07.2009
EMBL discovery may help fight major cause of heart disease

Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Heidelberg, Germany, have come a step closer to understanding how cholesterol levels are regulated.

In a study published today in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers identified 20 genes that are involved in this process. Besides giving scientists a better idea of where to look to uncover the mechanisms that ensure cholesterol balance is maintained, the discovery could lead to new treatments for cholesterol-related diseases.

“This finding may open new avenues for designing targeted therapies, for example by looking for small molecules that could impact these genes,” says Heiko Runz, whose group at the University Clinic Heidelberg carried out the research together with Rainer Pepperkok's lab at EMBL.

High levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream are a major risk factor for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in developed countries today. Nevertheless, cholesterol is an important cellular component: 90% of the cholesterol in our bodies is inside our cells, where it does not cause any harm. Blood cholesterol levels are partly regulated by cells taking up cholesterol from the bloodstream, a process Runz and his colleagues are helping to unveil.

The researchers deprived isolated human cells of cholesterol and then looked at the whole genome to find the genes that react to changes in cholesterol levels by altering their expression. This large-scale approach pointed to hundreds of genes which might be involved in cholesterol regulation. To check which genes really were involved, the scientists used a technique called RNA interference to systematically turn each of the candidate genes off. With a microscope they then observed what effect switching off different genes had, both on cholesterol uptake and on the total amount of cholesterol inside cells.

Of the 20 genes the scientists identified as involved in regulating cholesterol levels and uptake, 12 were previously unknown. The remainder were known to have some link to lipid metabolism - how the body breaks down fat - including two genes that when mutated may cause heart disease, but which were only now shown to also play a part in bringing cholesterol into cells in the first place.

The scientists are now trying to discover exactly how the novel genes regulate cholesterol levels inside cells, as well as looking at patients to determine whether these genes (or alterations in them) do constitute risk factors, and investigating if and how they could be useful drug targets.

This discovery could help fight not only heart disease, but also other conditions, as one of the genes identified appears to influence the behaviour of NPC1, a protein involved in the neuro-degenerative Niemann-Pick disease.

The research was conducted under the Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU), a collaboration between EMBL and Heidelberg University. “It is very convenient to have such a close partnership here in Heidelberg”, says Rainer Pepperkok from EMBL, adding, “it allowed us to use the sophisticated techniques and technology from EMBL to answer questions that first arose at the University clinic, whose clinical aspects will now help in the follow-up.”

Anna-Lynn Wegener
Press Officer
EMBL
Meyerhofstrasse 1
D-69117 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 387452
Fax: +49 6221 387525
anna.wegener@embl.de

Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Further information:
http://www.embl.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>