“Good” Cholesterol Found to Reverse Atherosclerosis in Mice with Diabetes

Oct 1, 2019 | Atherosclerosis, Cholesterol, Diabetes, NYU School of Medicine

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Researchers at the NYU School of Medicine perform study that “provides the ‘first direct evidence’ that raising levels of a simple, functional version of good cholesterol – the HDL protein shuttle that pulls cholesterol out of cells – reversed the progression of atherosclerosis in mice with diabetes,” as reported in EurekAlert!.

The study results are based around atherosclerosis, a condition where high levels of cholesterol cause “plaques” to form in vessel walls, eventually restricting blood flow to cause heart attacks and strokes. Many of these same patients have diabetes, in which tissues are injured by high blood sugar.

The Authors’ Remarks

“Our study results argue that raising levels of functional good cholesterol addresses inflammatory roots of atherosclerosis driven by cholesterol buildup beyond what existing drugs can achieve,” says study senior author Edward Fisher, MD, PhD, the Leon H. Charney Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at NYU Langone Health. “Good cholesterol is back as therapeutic target because we now understand its biology well enough to change it in ways that lower disease risk.”

First author Tessa Barrett, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, also comments, saying, “For the study we built our own version of the HDL particle, called reconstituted HDL, which promises to become the basis for new kinds of functional HDL treatments that finally reduce the residual risk for cardiovascular disease not addressed currently.”

Study Details

In sets of experiments, the current study authors raised functional HDL levels in diabetic mice by increasing the amounts apoA-I present, either by genetic engineering or direct injection. They found that the increase in functional HDL stopped cholesterol-driven immune cell multiplication (proliferation) in bone marrow, reduced inflammation in immune cells in plaques by half, and enhanced the reversal of atherosclerotic disease processes (regression) by 30 percent in mice already treated to lower their bad cholesterol.

Finally, the study results also show that increased HDL levels kept another set of immune cells called neutrophils from giving off webs of fibers that increase inflammation and blot clot formation in atherosclerosis, further blocking blood flow.

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