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High Blood cholesterol


Cholesterol activates signaling pathway that promotes cancer


Everyone knows that cholesterol, at least the bad kind, can cause heart disease and hardening of the arteries. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago describe a new role for cholesterol in the activation of a cellular signaling pathway that has been linked to cancer. The finding is reported in Nature Communications. Cells employ thousands of signaling pathways to conduct their functions. Canonical Wnt signaling is a pathway that promotes cell growth and division and is most active in embryonic cells during development. Overactivity of this signaling pathway in mature cells is thought to be a major driver in the development of cancer. “Our research points to a new regulatory role for cholesterol, and also presents an exciting new therapeutic target for suppressing canonical Wnt signaling to treat or prevent cancer,” said Wonhwa Cho, professor of chemistry at UIC and principal investigator of the research.

Cholesterol levels vary by season, get worse in colder months


Cholesterol levels fluctuate based on the time of year with more unfavorable lipid profiles seen in the colder months, a trend that may be driven by related behavior changes, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session. While previous studies have shown that heart attacks and heart-related deaths increase during the winter months, researchers at Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease were interested in finding out whether cholesterol parameters might follow a similar pattern among a sample of 2.8 million adults - the largest study to look at seasonal lipid trends in U.S. adults to date. Abnormal cholesterol levels are a well-known cardiovascular risk factor. “In this very large sample, we found that people tend to have worse cholesterol numbers on average during the colder months than in the warmer months - not by a very large amount, but the variation is significant,” said Parag Joshi, M.D., cardiology fellow, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and lead investigator of the study. “It confirms findings from smaller studies and raises a lot of interesting questions, including what might be driving these [fluctuations].” Researchers caution these findings do not mean patients should have their cholesterol checked more frequently or at certain times of the year; the data instead validates a clear seasonal pattern and underscores the need to pay attention to behaviors that are critical to minimizing cardiovascular risk.

Early statin therapy helps kids with inherited high cholesterol


Children with inherited high levels of cholesterol who receive cholesterol-lowering statins in their early years have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than their affected parents, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013. Researchers evaluated the effectiveness and safety of statin treatment in 214 children with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The children, 8- to 18-years-old, continued to receive statins and were evaluated after 10 years. Researchers reported that at age 30, coronary heart disease survival was 100 percent in the group of young adults who received statins from childhood and 93 percent in the affected parents. “Our results suggest statin therapy initiated in childhood reduces disease and death from heart disease in patients with FH,” said Marjet Braamskamp, M.D., study co-author and a Ph.D. student at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. “After 10 years of treatment, young adult FH patients had not suffered from cardiovascular complaints.”

A mother’s high cholesterol before pregnancy can be passed on to her children


What leads to high cholesterol? Your genes and lifestyle factors may not explain it all. A study presented today at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress has connected some of the risk for high cholesterol in adults to their mother’s cholesterol levels before she even became pregnant. The key finding: if a mother had high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol prior to a pregnancy, her children are almost five times as likely to also have high LDL cholesterol as adults. “Maternal health and exposures in the womb may be important in modifying cardiovascular disease risks for their offspring,” says author Dr. Michael Mendelson, a clinical and research fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. “One exposure that hasn’t been explored well is high cholesterol in young women of childbearing age. We wanted to know: does this pose an extra risk for the child?” The study analyzed clinical and laboratory data gathered from the three generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). This ongoing study goes back to 1948 and led the way to identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

When it comes to the good cholesterol, fitness trumps weight


There’s no question that high levels of good cholesterol - also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - seem to be protective against heart disease. Rather than depositing fat into the blood vessels the way the “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein (LDL)) does, HDL appears to carry cholesterol away from blood vessels to the liver. From there, the liver processes it for removal from the body. However, adequate levels of HDL might not be enough. Several recent studies have suggested that many cases of heart disease occur in people with normal levels of HDL cholesterol. Consequently, some researchers believe that even if people have adequate amounts of HDL cholesterol, it might not work well. Such HDL may not fulfill this molecule’s other important duties in the body, such as reducing inflammation and acting as an antioxidant. Because exercise has the potential to protect against heart disease in a variety of ways, Christian K. Roberts and his colleagues at UCLA tested whether HDL in men who weight trained regularly behaved in a healthier way than HDL in sedentary men. They found that the men who didn’t exercise were more likely than those who weight trained to have dysfunctional HDL. Having faulty HDL was associated with numerous other risk factors for heart disease, including high triglycerides and a higher trunk fat mass. This finding held true regardless of the men’s weight, which suggests that maintaining a “healthy” weight isn’t as important for healthy cholesterol function as being active by regularly performing strength training. The article is entitled “Untrained Young Men Have Dysfunctional HDL Compared to Strength Trained Men Irrespective of Body Weight Status.” It appears in the Articles in PresS section of Journal of Applied Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.

Unnecessary repeat cholesterol tests common: study


One-third of people with heart disease have their cholesterol levels checked more often than guidelines recommend, a new study of Veterans Affairs (VA) patients suggests. Researchers said such extra testing may be a waste of time and money if it doesn’t lead to improvements in patients’ health. The findings are “very unsurprising,” according to Dr. Michael Johansen of The Ohio State University in Columbus, who has studied cholesterol management. He said doctors may order more tests to meet (or exceed) performance measures, and because they get paid for running a cholesterol panel.

Specialized treatment helps cholesterol patients who suffer side effects from statins


Up to 15 percent of patients who take cholesterol-lowering statin medications experience muscle pain or other side effects, and many patients simply stop taking the drugs. But a Loyola University Medical Center study has found that “statin-intolerant” patients still can significantly reduce their cholesterol by going to a lipid clinic staffed with physicians specially trained in treating cholesterol problems. Among 22 statin-intolerant patients referred to Loyola’s Lipid Clinic, total cholesterol dropped from 257 mg/dl to 198 mg/dl. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol dropped from 172 mg/dl to 123 mg/dl, the study found. By comparison, in a control group of 21 statin-intolerant patients who were not referred to a lipid clinic, total cholesterol dropped by only 3 points, and LDL cholesterol dropped by only 1 point.

Researchers Find New Way to Clear Cholesterol From the Blood


Researchers at the University of Michigan have identified a new potential therapeutic target for lowering cholesterol that could be an alternative or complementary therapy to statins. Scientists in the lab of David Ginsburg at the Life Sciences Institute inhibited the action of a gene responsible for transporting a protein that interferes with the ability of the liver to remove cholesterol from the blood in mice. Trapping the destructive protein where it couldn’t harm receptors responsible for removing cholesterol preserved the liver cells’ capacity to clear plasma cholesterol from the blood, but did not appear to otherwise affect the health of the mice. In the research, published April 9 in the online journal eLife, scientists found that mice with an inactive SEC24A gene could develop normally. However, their plasma cholesterol levels were reduced by 45 percent because vesicles from liver cells were not able to recruit and transport a critical regulator of blood cholesterol levels called proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9. PCSK9 is a secretory protein that destroys the liver cells’ receptors of low-density lipoprotein- LDL, the so-called “bad cholesterol”-and prevents the cells from removing the LDL. “Inhibiting SEC24A or PCSK9 may be an alternative to statins, and could work together with statins to produce even greater effects,” said Xiao-Wei Chen of the Ginsburg lab, the first author on the paper. “Also, they might be effective on patients who are resistant to or intolerant of statins.”

Cholesterol buildup links atherosclerosis and macular degeneration


A new study raises the intriguing possibility that drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol may be effective against macular degeneration, a blinding eye disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over 50, shares a common link with atherosclerosis. Both problems have the same underlying defect: the inability to remove a buildup of fat and cholesterol. The new study is published online in the journal Cell Metabolism. Working in mice and in human cells, the researchers shed new light on how deposits of cholesterol contribute to macular degeneration and atherosclerosis and even blood vessel growth in some types of cancer.

Merck CEO says jury out on raising good cholesterol


The jury is still out on the benefits of increasing “good” HDL cholesterol, but the strategy remains worth pursuing, despite recent setbacks, the chief executive of said on Thursday. Confidence in the HDL thesis suffered a fresh blow last month when a major clinical trial of Merck’s Tredaptive medicine failed. That followed earlier failures with two other HDL-boosting drugs from Pfizer and Roche. The Pfizer and Roche drugs worked differently to Tredaptive, by inhibiting a protein called CETP, and Merck is also developing a key experimental product in this area. Merck CEO Ken Frazier, speaking in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, said the U.S. drugmaker would continue to press ahead with clinical research on HDL raising, even though the scientific case so far remained inconclusive.