27, 2011) -- Scientists from the University of Warwick have discovered
why a newly found form of cholesterol seems to be 'ultra-bad', leading
to increased risk of heart disease. The discovery could lead to new
treatments to prevent heart disease particularly in people with type
2 diabetes and the elderly.
funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), found that 'ultrabad'
cholesterol, called MGmin-low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is
more common in people with type 2 diabetes and the elderly, appears
to be 'stickier' than normal LDL. This makes it more likely to attach
to the walls of arteries. When LDL attaches to artery walls it helps
form the dangerous 'fatty' plaques' that cause coronary heart disease
the condition behind heart attacks, claiming 88,000 lives in the UK
every year (1).
made the discovery by creating human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory,
then studying its characteristics and interactions with other important
molecules in the body.
found that MGmin-LDL is created by the addition of sugar groups to
'normal' LDL a process called glycation making LDL smaller
and denser. By changing its shape, the sugar groups expose new regions
on the surface of the LDL. These exposed regions are more likely to
stick to artery walls, helping to build fatty plaques. As fatty plaques
grow they narrow arteries - reducing blood flow - and they can eventually
rupture, triggering a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.
might also explain why metformin, a widely prescribed type 2 diabetes
drug, seems to lead to reduced heart disease risk. Metformin is known
to lower blood sugar levels, and this new research shows it may reduce
the risk of CHD by blocking the transformation of normal LDL to the
more 'sticky' MGmin-LDL.
Rabbani, Associate Professor of Experimental Systems Biology at Warwick
Medical School, who led the study, said:
excited to see our research leading to a greater understanding of
this type of cholesterol, which seems to contribute to heart disease
in diabetics and elderly people. Type 2 diabetes is a big issue
of the 2.6 million diabetics in the UK, around 90 per cent
have type 2. It's also particularly common in lower income groups
and South Asian communities. (2, 3)
next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol
with treatments that could help neutralise its harmful effects on
Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, which funded the study, said:
known for a long time that people with diabetes are at greater risk
of heart attack and stroke. There is still more work to be done
to untangle why this is the case, but this study is an important
step in the right direction.
study shows how the make-up and the shape of a type of LDL cholesterol
found in diabetics could make it more harmful than other types of
LDL. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased
risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes.
exactly how 'ultrabad' LDL damages arteries is crucial, as this
knowledge could help develop new anti-cholesterol treatments for
was published in the journal Diabetes.
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