Houston researchers have designed a synthetic peptide that acts like a detergent to dissolve lipids and activates the lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT) enzyme that enables the body to rid itself of cholesterol more easily.
"This could lead to a whole different approach to the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis," suggests Antonio M. Gotto, Jr, MD, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital. "We've been working on this for a long time."
Gotto and colleagues James T. Sparrow, PhD, and Henry J. Pownall, PhD, call the peptide that they have synthesized LAP-20 (lipid-associating peptide with 20 amino acids).
Testing with rabbits and monkeys at risk for atherosclerosis (because of a high-fat diet or other factors) will begin in the next few months. Some of the challenges that Gotto foresees in these animal studies and in potential application to humans are:
1. The peptide may be