Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio have identified four genes in baboons that influence levels of "bad" cholesterol. This discovery could lead to the development of new drugs to reduce the risk of heart disease.
"Our findings are important because they provide new targets for the development of novel drugs to reduce heart disease risk in humans," said Laura Cox, Ph.D., a Texas Biomed geneticist. "Since these genes have previously been associated with cancer, our findings suggest that genetic causes of heart disease may overlap with causes of some types of cancer." The new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is published online and will appear in the July print issue of the Journal of Lipid Research. It can be found at: http://www.jlr.org/content/early/2013/05/06/jlr.M032649.full.pdf+html.
Texas Biomed scientists screened their baboon colony of 1,500 animals to find three half-siblings with low levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad,"' cholesterol, and three half-siblings with high levels of LDL. In the study, these animals were fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet for seven weeks. Scientists then used gene array technology and high throughput sequencers to home in on the genes expressed in the two groups and differentiate those in the low LDL groups from those in the high LDL group. They discovered that four genes (named TENC1, ERBB3, ACVR1B, and DGKA) influence LDL levels. Interestingly, these four genes are part of a signaling pathway important for cell survival and disruption of this pathway promotes some types of cancer.
It is well-known that a high level of LDL is a major risk factor for heart disease. Despite concerted efforts for the past 25 years to manage cholesterol levels through changes in lifestyle and treatment with medications, heart disease remains the leading
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Texas Biomedical Research Institute