A drug that revs up a gene responsible for regulating gallbladder chemistry can prevent gallstones from forming, according to a mouse study.
Gallstones are made of cholesterol, a normal component of the bile stored in the gallbladder. The organ periodically pumps bile into the small intestine, where the fluid aids digestion of fats. Gallstones form when the cholesterol coalesces into crystals instead of remaining in solution. One in 10 people in the United States develops gallstones, which can be painful and occasionally life threatening.
Earlier research showed that the gene FXR is responsible for maintaining normal concentrations of bile salts, which are chemicals that keep gallbladder cholesterol dissolved. Now, using a gallstone-prone strain of mice, a team led by David J. Mangelsdorf of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md., reports that a drug that stimulates FXR can prevent gallstones. The team's study appears in the December