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Understanding statins.

This year, America's largest annual award in medicine--The Albany Medical Center Prize-honors two researchers whose groundbreaking studies help explain how statin drugs prevent cholesterol from accumulating in the bloodstream.

Drs. Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas received the Nobel Prize in 1985 for their pioneering work on a genetic disorder characterized by excessively high cholesterol levels called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The colleagues found that specialized receptors on normal cell surfaces carry LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream and into cells, where it in metabolized to make hormones, vitamins, and other beneficial products. People with FH lack the key receptors, leading to a dangerous buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The research pair have since discovered that a family of proteins called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs) controls the LDL receptors and regulates cholesterol levels in the body--a finding that forms the basis for using statin drug therapy to lower cholesterol levels.

Scientists say that statin drugs suppress cholesterol production within cells. When the cells lack cholesterol, SREBPs are released, which, in turn, activate the LDL receptors. The receptors then remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and deposit it into the cells.

An insulin-sensitive regulator recently discovered by Drs. Brown and Goldstein offers promise in the field of drug therapy for the treatment of diabetes. In addition, current clinical trials stem from their research into cancer-causing proteins.

The 2002 Albany Medical Center Prize was awarded to Dr. Anthony Fauci, an AIDS researcher and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
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Title Annotation:Neighborhood Heart Watch
Author:Zipes, Douglas
Publication:Medical Update
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2003
Previous Article:AEDs protect young hearts, too.
Next Article:Lead levels and hypertension.

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