(RxWiki News) Patients with high cholesterol have enough to worry about. But a new 'ultra-bad' form of cholesterol recently discovered by researchers may inadvertently aid those patients by leading to new treatments for preventing heart disease particularly in those with type 2 diabetes and the elderly.
Researchers at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom also discovered why the super-sticky 'ultra-bad' type of cholesterol may be leading to higher risk of heart disease especially coronary artery disease.
"Monitor your cholesterol level regularly."
The 'ultra-bad' cholesterol, called MGmin-low density lipoprotein (MGmin-LDL), seems to be sticker than normal and more likely to attach to artery walls, which helps it form dangerous fatty plaques leading to coronary artery disease. This newly discovered type of cholesterol is most common in the elderly and individuals with type 2 diabetes. About 2.6 million diabetics live in the UK and 90 percent of them suffer from type 2 diabetes.
Investigators made the finding after creating human MGmin-LDL in a lab then studying its characteristics and how it interacted with important molecules in the body.
They discovered that MGmin-low density lipoprotein is created by the addition of sugar to normal low-density lipoprotein, in turn making it smaller and more dense. The new shape created by the sugar exposes new surfaces, which are more likely to stick to the walls of arteries, helping build the fatty plaques.
The arteries narrow as the fatty plaques grows, limiting blood flow. Arteries could eventually rupture, triggering a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The study also provided an explanation as to the success of metformin, a popular type 2 diabetes medication. The drug lowers blood sugar levels, and research suggests it may be reducing the risk of coronary heart disease by blocking the transformation of the super-sticky 'ultra-bad' MGmin-LDL.
Researchers' next move will be to study the types of treatments could neutralize dangerous effects of the 'ultra-bad' cholesterol.
"There is work going on to increase the protection against the formation of ultra-bad LDL that may decrease in people with diabetes and elderly people. This study will allow the focused development of novel therapies to reverse this process or in fact block it," said study facilitator Dr Naila Rabbani, associate professor of experimental systems biology at Warwick Medical School.
The research, which was published in journal Diabetes, was funded by the British Heart Foundation.