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Key fat and cholesterol cell regulator identified, promising target

Boston, MA -- Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified how a molecular switch regulates fat and cholesterol production, a step that may help advance treatments for metabolic syndrome, the constellation of diseases that includes high cholesterol, obesity, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. The study is now published in the online version of the scientific journal Nature and will appear in the August 10th print edition.

"We have identified a key protein that acts together with a family of molecular switches to turn on cholesterol and fat (or lipid) production," says principal investigator Anders Nr, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. "The identification of this protein interaction and the nature of the molecular interface may one day allow us to pursue a more comprehensive approach to the treatment of metabolic syndrome."

High levels of cholesterol and lipids are linked to a number of interrelated medical conditions and diseases, including obesity, type II diabetes, fatty liver, and high blood pressure. This set of conditions and diseases, known as metabolic syndrome, are afflicting a rapidly increasing portion of society and serve as a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the developed world.

Treatments for diseases associated with metabolic syndrome have focused primarily on individual elements, such as high LDL-cholesterol (targeted by the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs). However, more effective ways to treat all of the components of metabolic syndrome are needed. One attractive approach might be to target the genetic switches that promote cholesterol and lipid synthesis, but it would require a detailed understanding of the regulatory mechanisms before drug targets can be identified.

After eating a meal, a family of proteins act as switches to tur
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Contact: John Lacey
public_affairs@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0442
Harvard Medical School
2-Aug-2006


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