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Brain May Play Important Role in Controlling Cholesterol


Scientists once thought that cholesterol levels in the body were controlled solely by diet and liver production, however, a new study lead by a University of Cincinnati researcher has discovered that the brain also actively controls cholesterol levels.

"We have long thought that cholesterol is exclusively regulated through dietary absorption or synthesis and secretion by the liver,” said lead researcher Matthias Tschop of UC's Metabolic Diseases Institute. "Our study shows for the first time that cholesterol is also under direct 'remote control' by specific neurocircuitry in the central nervous system."

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Researchers at University of Cincinnati are of the view that this finding can be new target for pharmacologic control of cholesterol levels. Lead Researcher, Matthias Tschop of UC's Metabolic Diseases Institute, points out that it is for the first time that cholesterol is also under direct 'remote control' by specific neurocircuitry in the Central Nervous System.

The Researchers found that increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin in mice resulted in the animals developing higher levels of blood-circulating cholesterol. As the signals in the brain prompts the liver to store less cholesterol, its levels in the blood increases. In another experiment, the Researchers found that blocking this Receptor resulted in an increase in cholesterol levels in the blood.

We were stunned to see that by switching MC4R off in the brain, we could even make injected cholesterol remain in the blood much longer,” Tschop, who is also a scientists at the UC Metabolic Diseases Institute, adds. He says that cholesterol can be divided into two main categories, HDL or high-density lipoprotein (the “good” kind) and LDL or low-density lipoprotein (the “bad” kind). Whenever LDL exists in the body in too larger concentrations, it builds up inside blood vessels, triggering the buildup of plaque, and eventually heart attacks.

Of course further tests are required to confirm the advantages of this finding on cholesterol and the scientists believe their finding adds to a growing body of evidence for the central nervous system's direct control over essential metabolic processes.