A UCLA-led study published in the Nature Medicine journal found that a gene called MeXis is can control the expression of a protein that pumps cholesterol out of cells int the artery wall.
MeXis was presumed to have no function since it does not create a protein product. However, recent studies found that these genes produce a distinct class of molecules called long non-coding RNAs or IncRNAs. These are important in determining the inner workings of cells in the development of heart disease.
The study worked on mice that lack MeXis, and they had twice as many blockages in their blood vessels compared to those with normal MeXis levels. Increasing MeXis levels made cells more efficient in cutting away excess cholesterol.
The study’s next phase will look into how the gene can affect cell function in the artery wall, and as possible therapy for cardiovascular disease.