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Research focuses on heart disease

Published: Sat, April 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.

DALLAS -- New research from two teams of Dallas scientists may lead to better ways to treat heart disease.
One of the teams, led by Russell DeBose-Boyd of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has discovered how the body fights back against the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
Statins block an enzyme called HMG CoA reductase, leading to an increase in the liver's ability to soak up cholesterol from the blood. But when drugs block the enzyme, something else happens -- molecules that would normally degrade the enzyme become more scarce. The amount of active enzyme increases and becomes harder and harder to block with the drugs. This limits how effective statins can be.
The second team, also from UT Southwestern, has bred mice that can eat a fatty, high-cholesterol diet and not develop clogged arteries.
The mice lack the gene for a protein that protects blood cells called macrophages. These cells contribute to the vessel-clogging plaques in people with high cholesterol. But in mice that can't produce the protein, the cells die and no plaques form.
Toru Miyazaki, the immunologist who led the study, said it might be possible to develop a drug that blocks the protein. If such a drug could be found, in theory people could eat a high-fat diet and not suffer the usual consequences.
The study also appeared in the journal Cell Metabolism. Other UT Southwestern researchers who participated in the research were Satoko Arai, John Shelton, Angie Bookout and David Mangelsdorf.

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