Despite significant progress in the management of atherosclerosis and its resultant complications, cardiovascular disease remains the principal cause of death in the world. The National Cholesterol Education Project Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP ATP III) recognizes low levels of highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) as a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD) and high levels of HDL as a risk-reducing factor; however, the elevation of HDL as a specific therapeutic target for the prevention and treatment of CHD has yet to be accepted on the same level as low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-reducing therapies. Current HDL elevators including nicotinic acid, fibric acid derivatives, peroxisome proliferator activated receptor (PPAR) agonists and statins also affect other lipid constituents which make interpretation of the clinical trials of these drugs difficult in teasing out the independent effect of HDL elevation. Ample laboratory investigation suggests that HDL elevation would reduce atherosclerotic burden through multiple independent mechanisms. In this review, we explore HDL biology, its potential mechanisms in the treatment of atherosclerotic disease, and promising new drugs with HDL-raising activity.
Keywords: Coronary heart disease, high density lipoprotein, low density lipoprotein, Apo A1 milano, cholesterol ester transfer protein, lecithin/cholesterol acyl transferase
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