Virginia Commonwealth University researchers found that cholesteryl ester hydrolase (CEH) may play a role in reducing heart disease. They suggest that the enzyme not only prevents the formation of new plaques but also reduces existing plaques.
The investigators focused their efforts on macrophage foam cells, which are responsible for storing large amounts of cholesterol that leads to the clogging of arteries by forming plaques. In a previous study, they found that CEH present in the foam cells regulates the amount of cholesterol that can be removed by HDL.
Using transgenic mice that were fed a high fat and cholesterol-rich diet, the team was able to show that overexpression of the human gene for CEH in macrophage cells reduced the cholesterol content of atherosclerotic lesions from the artery-clogging foam cells and decreased the lesion area. This made the mice significantly less susceptible to heart disease, the team reports.
The findings appear in the October issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI).