Two main types of cholesterol are found in our body, the low density lipoprotein (LDL) and the high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL is considered to be the “bad” cholesterol and should therefore be kept low whereas HDL is the “good” cholesterol whose high levels bring some positive effects. High levels of LDL cholesterol results in a condition called hyperlipidemia and can cause cardiovascular disorders.
Researchers at the Northwestern University have just created a synthetic HDL, a molecule very similar to the naturally occurring HDL, from its molecular size to its surface composition.
“We have designed and built a cholesterol sponge. The synthetic HDL features the basics of what a great cholesterol drug should be,” according to researcher Prof Chad A. Mirkin of the Northwestern School of Medicine.
The synthetic HDL was synthesized in the lab with two lipid layers covered by the main component of natural HDL – the APOA1 protein and a gold nanoparticle in its core.
According to Dr. Shad Thaxton, another researcher in the team
“Cholesterol is essential to our cells, but chronic excess can lead to dangerous plaque formation in our arteries. HDL transports cholesterol to the liver, which protects against atherosclerosis. Our hope is that, with further development, our synthetic form of HDL could be used to increase HDL levels and promote better health.“
Currently available anti-cholesterol drugs such as statins are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels but can’t increase the HDL levels. The sponge-like synthetic HDL is supposed to be able “sop up” the bad lipoproteins, thereby, lowering LDL while increasing HDL at the same time. It is hope that the future of hyperlipidemia management lies in this new molecule.
High LDL cholesterol levels and low HDL levels are risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. The risk profiles based on LDL, HDL and total (LDL + HDL) cholesterol levels are as follows:
- High LDL cholesterol values above 130 mg/dL indicate increased risk.
- HDL values below 40 mg/dL indicate increased risk.
- A total cholesterol level of <200 mg/dL reflects a low risk for cardiovascular disease.
- A total cholesterol level of 200 to 240 mg/dL indicates moderate/borderline risk.
- A total cholesterol above 240 mg/dL is considered to be high risk.
It will take another while till the effectiveness and safety of the synthetic HDL can be tested and proven. In the meantime, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following ways in keeping your cholesterol levels under control:
- Schedule a screening
- Eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Follow your healthcare professional’s advice
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