7 New Cholesterol Genes Found

Genes May Make Good Targets for New Cholesterol Drugs, Experts Say

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 14, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 14, 2008 -- Scientists have discovered seven genes that affect levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides (another type of blood fat).

Several of those genes "are potentially attractive drug targets" to lower heart disease risk, write the University of Michigan's Cristen Willer, PhD, and colleagues.

Two of the newly identified genes only affect HDL cholesterol, one only affects LDL cholesterol, three only affect triglycerides, and one affects LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

Willer's team also confirmed that 11 previously identified genes affect cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels.

The scientists spotted the cholesterol and triglyceride genes by analyzing DNA from more than 8,800 people and then double-checking their findings by testing the DNA of more than 11,000 other people.

The findings were published online in Nature Genetics, along with two independent studies with similar results.

Willer and colleagues also noticed that genes for high LDL cholesterol levels were associated with greater risk of coronary artery disease, which makes heart attacks more likely.

"Nearly all of the gene regions that we found to be involved in higher LDL levels were also involved in coronary artery disease risk," Willer states in a news release. "This is a remarkable result and suggests that new drug therapies that target the genes in these regions will also help prevent coronary artery disease and allow people to live longer and healthier lives."

One day, it may be possible to tailor cholesterol and triglyceride treatments to a patient's gene profile, the researchers note.

Meanwhile, your doctor can check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and give you advice about how to improve those levels through diet, exercise, and medication, if needed.

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SOURCES: Willer, C. Nature Genetics, Jan. 13, 2008; advance online edition. Kathiresan, S. Nature Genetics, Jan. 13, 2008; advance online edition. Kooner, J. Nature Genetics, Jan. 13, 2008; advance online edition. News release, Nature. News release, University of Michigan.

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