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Scientists Discover 'Ultra-Bad' Cholesterol

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- A new, "ultra-bad" form of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol has been discovered in people with a high risk for heart disease, according to British researchers.

They found that the cholesterol, called MGmin-LDL, is super-sticky, making it more likely to attach to the walls of arteries and form fatty plaques, which could lead to heart attacks and stroke.

The discovery provides a possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in diabetics and could help researchers develop new anti-cholesterol treatments, the researchers suggested.

In the study, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, University of Warwick researchers created MGmin-LDL in a lab through glycation, which is the adding of sugar groups to normal LDL cholesterol, commonly referred to as "bad" cholesterol. The process changed the cholesterol's shape, making it stickier and more likely to build fatty plaques, narrow arteries and reduce blood flow and turning it into what they called "ultra-bad" cholesterol.

The findings, released online May 26 in Diabetes, could have significant implications for the treatment of coronary heart disease, particularly in older people and those with type 2 diabetes. Specifically, the researchers said, the results of their study shed light on how a common type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, fights heart disease by blocking the transformation of normal LDL into the super-sticky LDL.

"We're 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," the study's lead researcher, Naila Rabbani, an associate professor of experimental systems biology at Warwick Medical School, said in a university news release.

"The next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol with treatments that could help neutralize its harmful effects on patients' arteries," she said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more on cholesterol.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Warwick, news release, May 27, 2011

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