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Curbing cholesterol could help combat infections, study shows

Date:
March 9, 2011
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
Lowering cholesterol could help the body's immune system fight viral infections, researchers have found. Scientists have shown a direct link between the workings of the immune system and cholesterol levels.
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Lowering cholesterol could help the body's immune system fight viral infections, researchers have found. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have shown a direct link between the workings of the immune system and cholesterol levels.

"What we have discovered is that a key immune hormone stimulated upon infection can lower cholesterol levels and thereby deprive viral infections of the sustenance they need to grow," said Professor Peter Ghazal, Division of Pathway Medicine. "Drugs currently exist to lower cholesterol levels, but the next step would be to see if such drugs would also work to help bolster our immune systems."

Infection response

Researchers found that when the body succumbs to a viral infection a hormone in the immune system sends signals to blood cells. This causes cholesterol levels to be lowered.

Cholesterol produced by our cells is needed for viruses and certain bacteria to grow. Limiting our body's production of cholesterol would therefore curb the opportunity for viruses to thrive. Scientists say that it may be possible to use cholesterol lowering drugs that also boost the immune system.

Currently drugs such as antibiotics are used to fight infections by targeting the bug directly.

Further research

The researchers hope to find new ways to manipulate the body's immune system by targeting cholesterol metabolism. This could involve mimicking immune signals sent to lower the production of cholesterol.

Such treatment would help overcome the problems associated with antibiotic resistance. This is because it would seek to enhance the way the body responds to an infection, instead of focussing on attacking the bug itself

The research is published in the journal PLoS Biology.

The research is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the British Heart Foundation.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mathieu Blanc, Wei Yuan Hsieh, Kevin A. Robertson, Steven Watterson, Guanghou Shui, Paul Lacaze, Mizanur Khondoker, Paul Dickinson, Garwin Sing, Sara Rodríguez-Martín, Peter Phelan, Thorsten Forster, Birgit Strobl, Matthias Müller, Rudolph Riemersma, Timothy Osborne, Markus R. Wenk, Ana Angulo, Peter Ghazal. Host Defense against Viral Infection Involves Interferon Mediated Down-Regulation of Sterol Biosynthesis. PLoS Biology, 2011; 9 (3): e1000598 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000598

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University of Edinburgh. "Curbing cholesterol could help combat infections, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308172940.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2011, March 9). Curbing cholesterol could help combat infections, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308172940.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Curbing cholesterol could help combat infections, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308172940.htm (accessed September 4, 2015).

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