New drugs aiming to lower dangerous or 'bad' cholesterol in a more targeted manner could shortly be a reality, reports a new study.
Scientists from the University of Leicester and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have filed two patents for developing targeted drugs that would act as a catalyst for lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or 'bad' cholesterol.
LDL is often linked to medical problems like heart disease, stroke and clogged arteries.
In the body, cells in the liver produce an LDL receptor that binds LDL and removes it from the blood, thereby lowering cholesterol levels.
The scientists have characterised an enzyme called IDOL that plays a key role in regulating the amount of LDL receptor available to bind with 'bad' cholesterol.
Therefore targeting the enzyme with drugs could increase the levels of LDL receptors present, thus lowering circulating cholesterol in humans.
"Development of a drug that interferes with IDOL's activity could help lower levels of LDL. Our research has greatly enhanced our understanding of this important process," Professor John Schwabe, Head of Biochemistry at the University of Leicester, said.
"Remarkably, IDOL only targets three proteins for degradation (all lipoprotein receptors) and this research paper greatly enhances our understanding of this specificity and identifies key residues involved in mediating this interaction."
"A potential future drug that targets IDOL could be prescribed in conjunction with statin drugs, which also cut cholesterol levels by increasing production of the LDL receptor and these two studies make considerable headway towards this," Schwabe added.
The study has been published in Genes and Development and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).