The molecule that removes cholesterol from arteries could have another protective effect in heart disease: curbing inflammation.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL; known as the 'good cholesterol') transports fat from blood-vessel walls to the liver for excretion. But it also carries the fatty signalling molecule S1P, which activates the anti-inflammatory receptor S1P1. Timothy Hla of Cornell University in New York and his colleagues tested the effect of HDL-bound S1P on cells that line human blood vessels and found that it dampened inflammation. In mice engineered to develop heart disease, those missing the S1P gene had more arterial plaques than did those with the gene.
The researchers think that this further explains the ability of HDL to stave off cardiovascular disease.