Scientists Say “Imitation” Cholesterol May Provide Health Benefits

The typical Western diet has no shortage of rich, tasty foods loaded with fat and calories. And this is one reason why the number of Americans with high levels of cholesterol and heart disease has skyrocketed!

But Northwestern University scientists said they’ve developed a synthetic form of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. And they indicated it could be a powerful weapon for fighting high levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL)—also known as “bad” cholesterol.

According to a university statement, the researchers said their version of HDL cholesterol is similar in size and surface composition to natural HDL. They said the synthetic version can irreversibly bind to bad cholesterol and wipe it out!

“We have designed and built a cholesterol sponge. The synthetic HDL features the basics of what a great cholesterol drug should be,” said Chad A. Mirkin, Ph.D., George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Mirkin and Shad Thaxton, M.D., assistant professor of urology in Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, led the study.

Mirkin said it is hard to raise good HDL cholesterol levels—even through a healthy diet or the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs. But he is hopeful that the synthetic HDL they’ve developed “will one day help fill this gap in useful therapeutics.”

Your body needs cholesterol to protect cell membranes. But too much of it can cause plaque to coat and clog your arteries. HDL helps flush away excess LDL cholesterol by taking it to the liver.

The study results are published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).