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 Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>