Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins are at the forefront of the fight against heart disease. They work by blocking the synthesis of cholesterol inside cells. This, in turn, causes cells to produce more of a compound known as low-density-lipoprotein receptor, or LDLr, which plucks dangerous cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Despite the success of statins, they don't work for everyone. Now, a team of researchers with GlaxoSmithKline in Les Ulis, France, has found another way of reducing cholesterol. Working with cell cultures, the researchers began by genetically engineering human cells to express a fluorescent protein when the DNA that normally activates the LDLr gene is active. Then, they searched for compounds that increased the cells' fluorescence. Such chemicals, they reasoned, would boost LDLr activity in normal cells.