Opening the Way to the Heart
Opening the Way to the
The results of a small but importantstudy showed that intravenous doses of a syntheticcomponent of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ("good"cholesterol) may help reduce the number of deathsfrom heart disease. The treatment used a laboratory-producedversion of an unusually effective form of HDL. The results of the study stem from adiscovery 25 years ago in the village of Limone sulGarda in Italy. The researchers found that 40 residentsthere had very low HDL levels, yet they had low ratesof coronary artery disease. Laboratory tests showed a likelyexplanation: All the residents had a gene variation in akey protein component of HDL. The variation contributed tolarger-than-normal HDL particles, which are thought tomake HDL cholesterol especially efficient at removing plaque. The scientists madea synthetic form of the protein,which rapidly showed a reduction of plaque buildups in miceand rabbits. In the study of 47 participants, 36patients who had heart attacks or severe chest painreceived weekly intravenous infusion of the synthetic proteinfor 5 weeks, and 11 patients received placebo treatments. At 6weeks, imaging tests indicated that the patientsreceiving the synthetic protein had a 4% reduction in plaque buildupin their coronary arteries, compared with nosignificant change in the placebo group. The findings were publishedin the Journal of the American Medical Association (November3, 2003).