Mice lacking a specific enzyme have a significantly reduced risk of artery blockages, providing a new target for preventing cardiovascular disease.
The enzyme, ACAT2, is one of several that change cholesterol into a form more easily carried in blood.
Studies in mice and monkeys have shown that cholesterol altered by ACAT2 is more likely to build up in blood vessel walls and cause atherosclerosis.
Mice genetically altered to lack ACAT2 have been shown to have 85% lower levels of atherosclerosis than animals producing the enzyme.
“Mice without ACAT2 don’t get atherosclerosis,” says Lawrence Rudel of Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Rudel and colleagues have confirmed the results in normal mice using a molecule that blocks the effects of ACAT2.