Researchers from Wake Forest University and the University of California, San Francisco, have found that an enzyme known as acyl CoA:cholesterol acyltransferase 2 (ACAT2) affects the way cholesterol is circulated and stored in the body, possibly leading to accumulation in the arteries, which can lead to atherosclerosis. This enzyme is found in the liver and the intestines. By removing ACAT2 in mice, Lawrence L. Rudel, PhD, and his team found that hardening of arteries was virtually prevented.
Experts are now looking to develop a drug that inhibits ACAT2. Previous attempts at developing a similar drug were unsuccessful because researchers did not realize that there were 2 forms of the enzyme, ACAT1 and ACAT2.
According to Prediman K. Shah, MD, director of the Atherosclerosis Research Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif, a new drug would have to specifically block ACAT2. Further research is needed to determine the side effects of inhibiting this enzyme.