People who carry a malfunctioning copy of a particular gene are especially good at clearing fat from their systems. The report in the December Cell Metabolism, a Cell Press publication, shows how the mutant gene influences metabolism in this way.
"It looks like this might be something good to have," says Jan Albert Kuivenhoven of the University Medical Center Groningen in The Netherlands, but not so fast. It remains to be seen whether the people he studied will enjoy a lower incidence of heart disease or other health benefits.
The new findings are also a win for genome-wide association studies, which have been under fire recently for their failure to explain many human diseases and traits. "It shows these studies can help us identify new biological roots," Kuivenhoven says.
Epidemiological studies have led to the notion that triglycerides and LDL cholesterol are bad for us while HDL cholesterol is good, he explained. Drugs designed to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol are effective in treating heart disease, and, following on that same logic, efforts are underway to raise HDL cholesterol.
Yet, Kuivenhoven says, "the biology is more complex than everyone wants us to believe." His goal is to work out those details.
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