The control of cholesterol levels in the body by medication is one of the top topics in lipid research. Statins are a class of drug that decreases cholesterol levels by inhibiting the action of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, a major player in the production of cholesterol in the liver. Two papers in the March issue of the Journal of Lipid Research summarize results from clinical trials that tested statins on patients with cholesterol-related health problems. Andre J. Tremblay of Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, and colleagues studied the effect of atorvastatin in their paper “Atorvastatin increases intestinal expression of NPC1L1 in hyperlipidemic men." The results from this study were encouraging: Patients who took the drug daily for 12 weeks experienced increased cholesterol absorption and elevated mRNA levels of key proteins involved in cholesterol homeostasis.
Another statin, simvastatin, was combined with vitamin B3 (niacin), a known lipid modulator, in the five-year landmark “High density lipoprotein-atherosclerosis treatment study” conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. In their manuscript entitled “Cholesterol esterification and atherogenic index of plasma correlate with lipoprotein size and findings on coronary angiography,” Milada Dobiášová of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and fellow researchers looked at specific clinical measurements to determine the effectiveness of this drug regimen. This group’s analysis supports the idea that there are in vivo functional differences between patients with elevated lipid levels that correlate with varying phenotypes of atherosclerosis. They also show that HDL is a useful biomarker for predicting cardiovascular outcomes and that niacin aids in controlling cholesterol levels.
Mary L. Chang (email@example.com) is the managing editor of the Journal of Lipid Research.