The discovery of a new protein that is crucial for the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines could have promising results. Researchers believe that it could lead to new drugs that lower an individual's cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol from entering the body in the first place. The protein?Niemann-Pick C1 Like 1 (NPC1L1)?was identified after the researchers used various laboratory techniques to search for genes involved with cholesterol absorption.
Additional testing showed that the NPC1L1 gene encodes a protein that plays a critical role in the intestinal absorption of cholesterol. Also, this protein was found throughout the small intestines. In an effort to grasp NPC1L1 effects, the scientists assessed mice missing this gene. These mice showed a 70% reduction in absorbed cholesterol, compared with normal mice. (The findings were published in Science, February 20, 2004.)