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Seven New Cholesterol Genes Discovered
Date:1/13/2008

Study finds only those that regulate LDL levels influence heart disease risk

SUNDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Seven new cholesterol-regulating genes, some of which influence the risk of heart disease, have been identified in an international study of almost 20,000 people in three countries.

"I would predict that some of these genes will be the targets for future drugs," said the study's senior author, Goncalo Abecasis, an associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

In their report, published in the Jan. 13 issue of Nature Genetics., the researchers also confirmed the role of 11 previously identified cholesterol-related genes in the risk of heart disease.

"What was most exciting was that only the genetic changes that affect LDL cholesterol influence the risk of heart disease," Abecasis said. "Every genetic change that raises the level of LDL cholesterol influences the risk of heart disease."

LDL cholesterol is well known to be the "bad" kind that forms plaques that eventually can block arteries, causing heart attacks and other cardiovascular troubles. LDL cholesterol is the target of statins, drugs given to reduce coronary risk. HDL cholesterol is the "good" kind, which does not contribute to plaque formation.

"The conventional wisdom is that HDL cholesterol is good for you," Abecasis said. "But in our studies we found no major impact from those genes changing HDL cholesterol levels."

The research, done in collaboration with University of North Carolina and Harvard University researchers, started with genetic studies of 8,800 people from Italy, Sweden and Finland.

The researchers examined more than 2 million genetic variations in those individuals, eventually concentrating on 25 genetic variants, which together are responsible for about 25 percent of levels of blood lipids such as cholesterol.

The study asso
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