Four genes indentified that influence levels of 'bad' cholesterol

May 15, 2013, Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio have identified four genes in baboons that influence levels of "bad" cholesterol. This discovery could lead to the development of new drugs to reduce the risk of heart disease.

"Our findings are important because they provide new targets for the development of to reduce heart disease risk in humans," said Laura Cox, Ph.D., a Texas Biomed geneticist. "Since these genes have previously been associated with cancer, our findings suggest that genetic causes of heart disease may overlap with causes of some ." The new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is published online and will appear in the July print issue of the Journal of Lipid Research.

Texas Biomed scientists screened their baboon colony of 1,500 animals to find three half-siblings with low levels of (LDL), or "bad,"' cholesterol, and three half-siblings with high levels of LDL. In the study, these animals were fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet for seven weeks. Scientists then used gene and high throughput sequencers to home in on the genes expressed in the two groups and differentiate those in the low LDL groups from those in the high LDL group. They discovered that four genes (named TENC1, ERBB3, ACVR1B, and DGKA) influence LDL levels. Interestingly, these four genes are part of a signaling pathway important for and disruption of this pathway promotes some types of cancer.

It is well-known that a high level of LDL is a major risk factor for heart disease. Despite concerted efforts for the past 25 years to manage through changes in lifestyle and treatment with medications, heart disease remains the leading cause of death and mortality in the United States and around the world. It will account for one out of four U.S. deaths in 2013, according to the .

Heart disease is a complex disorder thought to be a result of interactions between genetic and environmental factors, which occur primarily through diet. To understand why humans have different levels of LDL and thus variation in risk for heart disease, the genetic factors causing these differences need to be understood.

However, these studies are difficult to do in humans because it's practically impossible to control what people eat. Instead, Texas Biomed scientists are using baboons, which are similar to humans in their physiology and genetics, to identify genes that influence .

The new research also suggests that knowing many of the genes responsible for heart disease may be necessary to devise effective treatments. For example, several genes may need to be targeted at once to control risk.

The next step in this research is to find the mechanism by which these genes influence LDL cholesterol. "That starts to give us the specific targets for new therapies." Cox said. If all goes well, this information may be available within two years.

Explore further: Low HDL-cholesterol—Not quantity, but quality

More information: The paper can be found at:

Related Stories

Low HDL-cholesterol—Not quantity, but quality

April 30, 2013
Many of the genes regulating the inflammation and immune response of the body are also associated with low HDL-cholesterol levels in the circulation, tells the recent study conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland. ...

Heart-healthy diet helps men lower bad cholesterol, regardless of weight loss

May 1, 2013
A heart-healthy diet helped men at high risk for heart disease reduce their bad cholesterol, regardless of whether they lost weight, in a study presented at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and ...

Machine similar to dialysis removes cholesterol from blood

March 1, 2013
Some patients are genetically prone to such dangerously high levels of cholesterol that no amount of diet, exercise and medications can reduce their cholesterol to safe levels.

Gene variant reduces cholesterol by two mechanisms

July 2, 2012
High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol increases the risk for coronary heart disease.

Canadian scientists discover cause of high cholesterol

October 28, 2012
Canadian scientists have discovered that a protein called resistin, secreted by fat tissue, causes high levels of "bad" cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL), increasing the risk of heart disease.

Low 'bad' cholesterol levels may be linked to cancer risk

March 26, 2012
(HealthDay) -- There may be a link between low levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and increased cancer risk, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Human 'chimeric' cells restore crucial protein in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

March 16, 2018
Cells made by fusing a normal human muscle cell with a muscle cell from a person with Duchenne muscular dystrophy —a rare but fatal form of muscular dystrophy—were able to significantly improve muscle function when implanted ...

Team develops 3-D tissue model of a developing human heart

March 16, 2018
The heart is the first organ to develop in the womb and the first cause of concern for many parents.

Democratizing science: Researchers make neuroscience experiments easier to share, reproduce

March 16, 2018
Over the past few years, scientists have faced a problem: They often cannot reproduce the results of experiments done by themselves or their peers.

Genetic variant discovery to help asthma sufferers

March 16, 2018
Research from the University of Liverpool, published today in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, identifies a genetic variant that could improve the safety and effectiveness of corticosteroids, drugs that are used to treat a range ...

Researchers say use of artificial intelligence in medicine raises ethical questions

March 15, 2018
In a perspective piece, Stanford researchers discuss the ethical implications of using machine-learning tools in making health care decisions for patients.

Study identifies potential drug for treatment of debilitating inherited neurological disease

March 15, 2018
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have demonstrated in mouse studies that the neurological disease spinal bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA) can be successfully treated with drugs. The finding paves the way for ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.