Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Heart disease

Molecule melts away cholesterol

The next weapon against heart disease could be a compound that is currently used to make drugs more soluble.

Credit: Sci. Transl. Med.

In atherosclerosis, plaques containing crystallized cholesterol clog up blood vessels. Eicke Latz of the University Hospital in Bonn, Germany, and his colleagues tested a compound called 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin, which increases the solubility of cholesterol, to see whether it reduced the plaques. They found that plaques shrank in atherosclerotic mice that had consumed cyclodextrin (blood vessel pictured left, cholesterol crystals in white), compared with plaques in the blood vessels of untreated animals (pictured right).

The drug bound to and dissolved the cholesterol crystals. It also increased cholesterol metabolism in immune cells called macrophages, which usually contribute to atherosclerosis by triggering inflammation in response to excess cholesterol. Cyclodextrin reprogrammed the cells in plaques, leading to increased transport of the dissolved cholesterol away from the plaques, and reducing harmful inflammation. Some of the same effects were seen in human plaque samples treated with the compound.

Sci. Transl. Med. 8, 333ra50 (2016)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Molecule melts away cholesterol. Nature 532, 151 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/532151c

Download citation

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing