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Two compounds made from a fungus could help researchers develop new drugs for treating atherosclerosis. When researchers tested them in mice, they appeared to prevent the accumulation of lipids in the cells where hardening of the arteries starts. (In the beginning stages of atherosclerosis, cells called macrophages store cholesterol and fatty acids.)
In the study, Japanese researchers isolated the compounds from Beauveria fungus and called them beauveriolides.They tested the compounds macrophage cells and learned that the compounds prevent the formation of droplets and the activity of an enzyme called acyl-CoA: cholesterol acyltransferase. Thus they prevent the string of events that eventually lead to hardening the arteries.
In mice bred to develop atherosclerosis, these compounds lowered atherosclerotic lesion formation by about 50% in treated animals, compared with controls. Also, no side effects such as damage to adrenal tissue were noted. The researchers reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (January 13, 2004).