In DepthLipid Biology

Why high ‘good cholesterol’ can be bad news

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Science  11 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6278, pp. 1126
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6278.1126

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In the last 10 years, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles have confounded scientists. The normal role of these bundles of protein and fat is to ferry cholesterol from the rest of the body to the liver, which eliminates it from the body. More of something good should mean better health, and people who naturally have higher HDL levels are usually better off. But drugs that increase HDL cholesterol have flopped in clinical trials, and genes that help raise it don't seem to track with less heart disease. Now, a new study that included a subgroup of people with high HDL suggests that it can sometimes be a signal not of heart health, but of the opposite: a cholesterol system unable to siphon the fatty particles from circulation.