A new therapy being studied in non-human primates by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and colleagues, is demonstrating promise as a potential tool for combating cardiovascular disease by increasing good cholesterol and lowering triglycerides in the blood. Supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the preclinical findings were published online on October 19, 2011 in Nature. "The study was conducted because there is a very strong inverse correlation between the amount of HDL (good cholesterol) and heart disease," said co-principal investigator Dr. Ryan Temel, an assistant professor of pathology and lipid sciences at Wake Forest Baptist. "The higher your level of HDL, the lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Currently, however, there are few therapies that significantly raise HDL." While there are several effective therapies available on the market for lowering LDL, or bad cholesterol, modern medicine has yet to find a good way to raise HDL, Dr. Temel said. "Even if you take a statin or some other therapy to lower your LDL, the risk of having coronary heart disease is still around 50 percent. There's clearly a lot of room left for improvement." Dr. Temel and colleagues from the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center and Regulus Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, are studying a new drug that targets microRNA-33 (miR-33). MiR-33 is a small RNA molecule that reduces HDL and increases triglyceride production. In previous studies in mice, the drug has been effective in promoting atherosclerotic plaque regression and increasing HDL. For the current study, researchers tested the drug, anti-miR-33, in non-human primates and found that it increased HDL cholesterol and lowered triglycerides.
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