London: Scientists have discovered a new form of "ultra-bad" cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease, a breakthrough they say could lead to new class of anti-cholesterol treatments.
The super-sticky low-density lipoprotein (LDL), called MGmin-LDL, is often found in elderly people and those with Type 2 diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Warwick in England who made the discovery.
The fatty material, they said, is stickier than the common form of LDL or "bad" cholesterol, making it more likely to attach to artery walls, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Naila Rabbani, who led the research, said: "We`re excited to see our research leading to a greater understanding of this type of cholesterol, which seems to help cause heart
disease in diabetics and elderly people."
"It provides a possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes," Dr Rabbani said, hoping that it would lead to development of new
The MGmin-LDL, which has sugary molecules that are smaller and denser than those of normal LDL, easily sticks to artery walls, providing a starting point for the build-up of
dangerous fatty plaques, the researchers said.
As the deposits grow, they narrow arteries and reduce blood flow. Eventually they can rupture, triggering a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke, they added.
To investigate how it interacts with other molecules in the body, the researchers created human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory by adding extra sugar groups to LDL and allowing it to transform into a more stickier form.
The new finding, reported in the journal Diabetes, appears to explain why the widely-prescribed diabetes drug, metformin, appears to reduce heart attack risk.
Metformin is known to lower blood sugar levels, and may block the transformation of "normal" LDL into even more damaging MGmin-LDL.
Dr Rabbani said: "Type 2 diabetes is a big issue – of the 2.6 million diabetics in the UK, around 90 per cent have Type 2. It`s also particularly common in lower income groups and South Asian communities.
"The next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol with treatments that could help neutralise its harmful effects on patients` arteries."
Dr Shannon Amoils, from the British Heart Foundation which funded the study, said: "We`ve known for a long time that people with diabetes are at greater risk of heart attack
"There is still more work to be done to untangle why this is the case, but this study is an important step in the right direction.