The contribution of hepatic ABCA1 to HDL levels and composition, and suceptibility to atherosclerosis

Coronary artery disease is a leading cause of death among Canadians. High cholesterol has been identified as a major risk factor for the disease. However, there are two kinds of cholesterol: LDL, the so-called “bad” cholesterol that has been linked to coronary artery disease, and HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol that has been linked to lower incidence of heart disease. Currently, the medical community’s focus is on decreasing LDL levels, but more than fifty percent of people with premature coronary artery disease have low levels of HDL. A gene called ABCA1 has been identified as critical in the production of HDL, but there is still uncertainty about its function. ABCA1 exists in most tissues of the body, but some tissues – notably the liver – are particularly rich in it. Liam Brunham is investigating the role of ABCA1 in the liver and in the production of HDL. Learning about this gene will increase understanding of how the human body produces and uses cholesterol and how it responds to different diets.