Cholesterol affecting the Heart Researchers at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine have discovered that cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a condition, which significantly maximizes the risk of heart attack and stroke, by repressing a key protein’s activity, which protects the heart and blood vessels.

According to Jung San Huang, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine and the study’s lead researcher, “We believe these findings represent a significant and novel breakthrough in cardiovascular research.”

“This study gives us new insight into how cholesterol promotes atherosclerosis – and in turn, how it leads to heart attack and stroke. This could give us important new tools in the fight against heart disease.” Dr. Huang said.

Popularly, high blood cholesterol is linked with development of atherosclerosis. The condition damages and narrows the arteries of the heart and other tissues preventing pumping of blood through as it should and hence, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Chun-Lin Chen, a senior graduate student on Dr. Huang’s research team, through an animal model, discovered that cholesterol confines the activity of Transforming Growth Factor-beta (TGF-beta), which is a key protective protein and serves many important functions in the body.

Atherosclerosis develops as cholesterol suppressed the responsiveness of cardiovascular cells to TGF-beta and its protective qualities.

However the researchers also found that statins, drugs that lower cholesterol levels, enhance the receptiveness of cardiovascular cells to the protective actions of TGF-beta, thus helping in preventing the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

“We believe the effects of our research could be far-reaching and of great interest to the pharmaceutical, academic and clinical communities,” Dr. Huang said.