Higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (often called HDL cholesterol) could help to reverse effects of cardiovascular disease among those with diabetes, a mouse study suggests.
Atherosclerosis is the name of the condition in which plaques form in the arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A team from the New York University School of Medicine tested whether the problem of atherosclerosis could be reduced in mice with higher levels of HDL cholesterol and low level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol). The team tested mice with and without diabetes.
The team carried out their research by transplanting blood vessel plaques into the different groups of mice and then reviewed whether the extent of the plaques improved in any of the groups.
Results showed that the presence of diabetes generally hindered improvement of the plaques, however, there were signs of reversal of atherosclerosis in the mice with diabetes and higher levels of HDL. The researchers suggest that a similar result may be found in humans too.
The team believes that the result show that HDL helps to transport cholesterol away from cells, reducing inflammation and preventing a dangerous build-up of plaque in the blood vessels. HDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as ‘good cholesterol’. However, both HDL and LDL are both needed in the blood.
Lead study author Dr Edward Fisher said: “Our study results argue that raising levels of functional good cholesterol addresses inflammatory roots of atherosclerosis driven by cholesterol build-up beyond what existing drugs can achieve.
“Good cholesterol is back as therapeutic target because we now understand its biology well enough to change it in ways that lower disease risk.”
Many previous treatments for atherosclerosis have been more focused towards lowering LDL than raising HDL. The researchers believe that focusing on raising HDL could play an in important role in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease in humans.
The findings have been published in the journal Circulation.