Heart disease researchers at Rockefeller University have discovered the function of a gene associated with high cholesterol levels in humans.
GENE IN GREEN: This red and green photo shows that high levels of active Pcsk9 gene prevents LDL cholesterol from binding to the surface of liver cells. LDL cholesterol was labeled with red, glow-in-the-dark dye while the Pcsk9 gene was labeled with green. Green cells with high levels of Pcsk9 inside have little or no red border, which means that LDL cholesterol molecules are not bound to their surfaces. Cells without high levels of Pcsk9 inside appear red because red LDL molecules are bound to their surfaces.
Using mice as test subjects, the Rockefeller scientists determined that the gene, called Pcsk9, can decrease the number of receptors on liver cells that remove the "bad" LDL cholesterol from the blood.
"Its very exciting to think that Pcsk9 might play a large role in the pathway to regulate the uptake of bad cholesterol from blood," said Kara Maxwell, the lead researcher of the study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Maxwell is an M.D.-Ph.D. student in the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism headed by Jan L. Breslow, M.D., the senior author of the study.
Joseph Bonner | Rockefeller University
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