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 Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>