Helen H. Wang, Gabriella Garruti, Min Liu, Piero Portincasa, David Q.-H. Wang
Atherosclerosis is characterized by lipid accumulation, inflammatory response, cell death and fibrosis in the arterial wall, and is major pathological basis for ischemic coronary heart disease (CHD), which is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the USA and Europe. Intervention studies with statins have shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and subsequently the risk of developing CHD. However, not all the aggressive statin therapy could decrease the risk of developing CHD. Many clinical and epidemiological studies have clearly demonstrated that the HDL cholesterol is inversely associated with risk of CHD and is a critical and independent component of predicting its risk. Elucidations of HDL metabolism give rise to therapeutic targets with potential to raising plasma HDL cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of developing CHD. The concept of reverse cholesterol transport is based on the hypothesis that HDL displays an cardioprotective function, which is a process involved in the removal of excess cholesterol that is accumulated in the peripheral tissues (e.g., macrophages in the aortae) by HDL, transporting it to the liver for excretion into the feces via the bile. In this review, we summarize the latest advances in the role of the lymphatic route in reverse cholesterol transport, as well as the biliary and the non-biliary pathways for removal of cholesterol from the body. These studies will greatly increase the likelihood of discovering new lipid-lowering drugs, which are more effective in the prevention and therapeutic intervention of CHD that is the major cause of human death and disability worldwide.
Key words. Biliary lipid secretion., Cholesterol-lowering drugs., Coronary heart disease., Intestinal lipid absorption., Statins., Stroke.