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New findings could lead to improved cholesterol-lowering drugs

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

For decades, the only treatment option for individuals who have received high cholesterol test results has been statin medications. These drugs are generally useful in lowering cholesterol, but can carry some side effects.

However, a discovery from a team of University of New South Wales researchers may result in new treatments that more effectively target cholesterol without the risk of side effects.

The researchers found that a certain enzyme called squalene mono-oxygenase, or SM, is involved in a late stage of the body's production of cholesterol molecules, and that inhibiting this enzyme may result in lower cholesterol levels.

Statin medications work in a similar fashion. However, they inhibit enzymes that are involved in earlier stages of the cholesterol production process. This works to lower cholesterol, but gives doctors little control over how much continues to be produced.

Since cholesterol actually plays an important role in several bodily functions and is only dangerous in high levels, this can be a problem.

"In effect, statins work like turning down the water supply at the mains," said Andrew Brown, who led the study. "If new drugs can be developed to inhibit the later control point that we've discovered, this would be like having the ability to slow the flow at a particular tap, leaving the rest of the home unaffected."

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