Study: HDL Anti-Inflammatory Activity Potentially Better Indicator for Cardiovascular Risk Than Cholesterol Value

April 16, 2021
Skylar Kenney, Assistant Editor

The anti-inflammatory properties of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) could potentially serve as a better biomarker than HDL cholesterol for future cardiovascular events, according to a new study published in Circulation.

HDLs play a key role in the prevention of atherosclerosis and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis, a chronic local inflammation that leads to plaque in the blood vessels, can cause cardiovascular disease if left untreated. HDLs, commonly referred to as “good cholesterol,” have several important functions in the body, including anti-inflammatory properties.

Researchers analyzed blood samples from the 8592 participants of the Prevend (Prevention of REnal and Vascular End stage Disease) study, selecting 369 individuals who were healthy when the study began but were recorded as having experienced a cardiovascular event on a 10.5-year follow-up. They were then matched by age, gender, smoking habit, and levels of HDL cholesterol to healthy patients.

Despite identical HDL cholesterol levels, participants who had experienced a cardiovascular event showed lower anti-inflammatory activity in their HDL particles compared to the healthy cohort. This read-out of HDL function predicted the occurrence of cardiovascular events independent of conventional risk factors, according to the study authors.

Currently, the value for blood HDL cholesterol is used to predict a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease. When adding the anti-inflammatory HDL value to the conventional Framingham model for predicting cardiovascular risk, the accuracy of the model improved. Further, when the HDL cholesterol value was replaced with the anti-inflammatory HDL value entirely, risk prediction improved.

“Our results point to new opportunities for improved cardiovascular risk assessment by using a biologically meaningful functional biomarker for HDL instead of its cholesterol content,” said Uwe Tietge, professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, in a press release. “However, the method for analyzing the anti-inflammatory activity of HDLs is currently rather complex and difficult. Our next goal is therefore to make the method simpler and more clinically implementable.”

REFERENCE

New research on good cholesterol possibly finds better marker for cardiovascular disease [news release]. EurekAlert; April 12, 2021. Accessed April 13, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-04/ki-nro040921.php