A New Way to Lower Cholesterol?

Researchers find new drug target for treating high cholesterol

April 26, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Having too much cholesterol in your blood can raise your risk for some serious health problems. There are drugs for high cholesterol, but they can have lots of side effects. Now, researchers may have found a way to treat high cholesterol without as many side effects.

Researchers found a protein that may lead to new way to reduce the amount of cholesterol the body makes. The treatments that focus on this protein are likely to have less side effects than the treatments used now.

"Researchers may have found a safer way to treat high cholesterol."

Right now, high cholesterol is mainly treated using drugs called statins. These drugs can have a number of side effects, including muscle pain and damage, liver damage, and gut problems.

According to Professor Andrew Brown from the University of New South Wales, these side effects happen because statins are aimed at a protein that plays a role in more than cholesterol production.

Finding this protein is exciting, says Professor Brown, because it is mainly involved in making cholesterol. This means that new drugs made to turn off this protein are not as likely to affect other process in the body. In other words, new drugs will probably have less side effects.

In Depth

  • The body makes cholesterol in a sort of assembly line. At least 20 proteins - or enzymes - are involved in the process.
  • Statins target an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase (HMGR). This enzyme is activated early in the process of cholesterol production. So, when statins turn off HMGR, many other processes are affected further down the assembly line. This is what leads to the various side effects of statins.
  • However, the enzyme found in this study - called squalene mono-oxygenase (SM) - is further down the line and more closely involved in making cholesterol. For this reason, Professor Brown explains, new drugs made to target the SM enzyme are likely to have less side effects because they will leave the rest of the assembly unaffected.