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Discovering cholesterol-absorbing genes

According to researchers in a recent study on both mice and humans are showing why some people absorb more cholesterol into their body than others. Did you know that if you eat a fatty meal or snack - a fried egg sandwich, say, //or a doughnut - the amount of cholesterol you absorb is strongly influenced by your genes. Experts know that high cholesterol is linked to heart disease, and that a high fat diet is bad for you. But little has been discovered about why some people absorb a lot more of the cholesterol in their diet than others.

Researchers at Rockefeller University have been working with genetically modified mice to discover the genes for cholesterol absorption. They have narrowed their search to two distinct regions of chromosomes 2 and 14. They are especially excited over chromosome 14, which is almost certain to harbour some significant genes.

Meanwhile, another team at the Rockefeller is studying the population of Kosrae, an island in Micronesia. The Kosraeans have a very high prevalence of syndrome X - a cluster of heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. It's to be hoped that this study will yield up some of the genes responsible for syndrome X. The search will be guided by the findings on the cholesterol absorption genes in the mouse study. New drugs and preventive approaches could then be developed from a better understanding of the genetics of heart disease.


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