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Innovative model facilitates new cholesterol research

2017-03-10

Researchers have produced a new model that will make it possible to study ‘bad’ cholesterol - low-density lipoprotein - in detail. By learning more about the structure and composition of the cholesterol, researchers hope that in time they will be better able to assess the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid, which is transported in the blood via lipoprotein particles, which are particles composed of proteins and lipids. The concentration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), is currently used as a clinical marker to assess the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Unfortunately, LDL is not as reliable as first thought.

Marité Cardenas from Biofilms - Research Center for Biointerfaces is one of the researchers behind the study: “We are currently unable to explain why individuals with good LDL values develop cardiovascular disease, whilst other individuals with poor values remain healthy.”

Studying structure and composition 

“The way different lipoprotein particles interact with cells, and how they contribute to calcification of blood vessels, can vary depending on the composition of the lipoproteins and other factors,” Cardenas explained.             

Professor Jan Skov Pedersen from the Department of Chemistry at Aarhus University has produced a new mathematical model that will make it possible to analyse complex data generated by the particles.

“With the new model, we can study how the molecules are packed into the particle. The way they are packed depends on their composition and it differs from one individual to another. We can even study the shape of the particle,” said Selma Maric, who is also a researcher at Biofilms - Research Center for Biointerfaces. 

X-rays and particle structure 

It is known that the way molecules are packed into the particle affects oxidisation, which in turn affects the formation of plaque in the blood vessels. With the aid of x-rays and the new model, researchers will now study how the particle structure changes. “The next step will be to re-examine how we assess the risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” explained Maric.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist