So-called “bad cholesterol” is a molecular complex of fat and protein. Specifically, the protein is Apolipoprotein-B, or ApoB, and the fat is cholesterol. While ApoB helps fat molecules to move around the blood vasculature, it is also what makes cholesterol stick to vessel walls, forming dangerous plaques that are one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.

Now, researchers at Carnegie Institution for Science, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic have developed a way to make such lipoprotein complexes glow so that they can be better studied and new drugs developed to help prevent plaque buildup.

The researchers were able to use genomic engineering techniques to attach a glowing enzyme, similar to that found in fireflies, to the ApoB protein. Used inside semi-transparent larval zebrafish, the researchers were able to see the distribution of ApoB complexes throughout the animals’ bodies. The intensity of the glow represents how much ApoB is around, and the technique is reportedly extremely accurate at identifying just how much cholesterol is at a given site. Moreover, unlike blood tests, the LipoGlo system, as its called, provides regional and localized information on cholesterol concentrations that may be useful for research in humans.

The technique will be most useful for research into cholesterol-fighting drugs, and it will certainly be used to discover interesting things about bad cholesterol and related topics. “Statin drugs have helped a lot of people and saved many lives, but folks still die of cardiovascular disease every year, so there is an urgent need for new medical strategies to understand and prevent arterial plaque buildup,” said Carnegie Science’s Steven Farber. “Our LipoGlo system allows us to study ApoB in a tiny larval zebrafish, enabling us to try thousands of potential pharmaceuticals and to find the needle in a haystack that could be the next treatment for this terrible disease. This type of whole-animal screening is not possible in any other vertebrate.”

Study in Nature Communications: The LipoGlo reporter system for sensitive and specific monitoring of atherogenic lipoproteins

Via: Carnegie Science



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