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A sugar can melt away cholesterol

Dose of sweet molecule removed plaques from mice’s hardened arteries

3:18pm, April 8, 2016
 cholesterol crystals in mouse arteries

PLAQUE BE GONE A sugar called cyclodextrin stopped cholesterol crystals (white) from building up in the arteries of mice on a high-fat diet. Mice that had fewer cholesterol crystals also had fewer inflammation-causing immune cells called macrophages (red). Blue indicates nuclei of cells.

A sugar that freshens air in rooms may also clean cholesterol out of hardened arteries.

The sugar, cyclodextrin, removed cholesterol that had built up in the arteries of mice fed a high-fat diet, researchers report April 6 in Science Translational Medicine. The sugar enhances a natural cholesterol-removal process and persuades immune cells to soothe inflammation instead of provoking it, say immunologist Eicke Latz and colleagues.

Cyclodextrin, more formally known as 2-hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin, is the active ingredient in the air freshener Febreze. It is also used in a wide variety of drugs; it helps make hormones, antifungal chemicals, steroids and other compounds soluble. If the new results hold up in human studies, the sugar may also one day be used to liquefy cholesterol that clogs arteries.

Other researchers say the approach is promising, but must be tested in clinical trials.

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