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Synthetic HDL Could Fight Heart Disease

Sponge-like molecule sops up bad lipoproteins, researchers say

FRIDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A synthetic high-density lipoprotein (HDL) -- the "good" cholesterol -- may hold promise for combating chronically high cholesterol levels and the deadly cardiovascular disease it can cause.

The synthetic HDL, created by Northwestern University researchers, is close in size to natural HDL with a near-matching general surface composition. It also has the ability to bind irreversibly to cholesterol.

"We have designed and built a cholesterol sponge. The synthetic HDL features the basics of what a great cholesterol drug should be," study co-leader Chad A. Mirkin, a Northwestern professor of medicine and also materials science and engineering, said in a news release issued by the school.

The findings were published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

With a gold nanoparticle as its core, synthetic HDL has two lipid layers covered by the main component of natural HDL -- the APOA1 protein.

"Cholesterol is essential to our cells, but chronic excess can lead to dangerous plaque formation in our arteries," study co-leader Dr. Shad Thaxton, an assistant professor of urology in Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, said in the same news release. "HDL transports cholesterol to the liver, which protects against atherosclerosis. Our hope is that, with further development, our synthetic form of HDL could be used to increase HDL levels and promote better health."

The team will now study and evaluate how synthetic HDL acts in biological conditions.

"Drugs that lower the bad cholesterol, LDL, are available, and you can lower LDL through your diet, but it is difficult to raise the good cholesterol, HDL. We are hopeful that our synthetic HDL will one day help fill this gap in useful therapeutics," Mirkin said.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cholesterol.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, January 2009

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