Thursday, December 8, 2011

New drugs can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol

Bad cholesterol is widely known as a risk factor for the development of various diseases, such as stroke and atherosclerosis. Various drugs aim to target bad cholesterol in the body, but a new approach by the University of Leicester can increase the efficiency. They found how a molecule negatively impacts the rate at which the body can clear bad cholesterol from the body, which they want to target with new drugs. By lowering the level of bad cholesterol, it is possible to prevent the associated diseases.

The molecule which has a role in clearing cholesterol, is dubbed IDOL. It affects a receptor that is able to bind LDL, which is the bad form of cholesterol. The LDL receptor functions by clearing the blood of the harmful protein, but its function can be impaired. That's where IDOL comes in, as it lowers the efficiency of the LDL receptor. The researchers published the structure of IDOL, and identified another molecule that aids in limiting the binding capabilities of the LDL receptor. That paves the way for novel treatments.

New drugs
What makes these findings relevant is that the discovery of the IDOL structure allows for the development of new drugs that bind the molecule, rendering it impossible to perform its function. Drugs that specifically bind IDOL would cause an increase of the uptake of LDL, which takes place in the liver, that can consequently be degraded. Interestingly, IDOL is extremely specific: it targets LDL receptors only. Therefore it could prove to be a therapeutic target without serious side-effects.

Current drugs
To treat high levels of LDL, most patients are given statins; drugs that inhibit an enzyme that plays a key role in cholesterol production. It is however advisable to just prevent getting high levels of LDL in the blood, which is why doctors advocate a healthy life style. Also because statins, and alternative drugs, have side-effects that include constipation, nausea and other gastro-intestinal problems. Needless to say, eating healthy is getting increasingly problematic in wealthy Western societies. Because newly developed IDOL drugs would work on a different level, however, it is possible to increase the effectiveness of medicinal therapies to lower LDL, and perhaps reduce the side-effects.

Bad cholesterol and society
The importance of having a low cholesterol level is widely known by most people, and some opt for a regular to check to determine how much LDL is present in the blood. Cholesterol has the capability to stick somewhere in your blood circulation, where it can be harmful. Eventually, this can lead to blocked arteries. In turn, this causes loss of oxygen supply, leading to severe problems when it is happens in the brain or heart.

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