The absence of a particular enzyme in mice reduces the build up of fat in the arteries, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The enzyme ACAT2 is one of three enzyme that alters the molecular structure of cholesterol so that it can be transported to the body’s cells. Previous studies showed that when cholesterol is altered by ACAT2 it is more likely to build up in blood vessel walls and cause atherosclerosis.
Groups of female mice with and without the ACAT2 gene were fed six different diets enriched with one type of fat: fish oil, flax seed oil, polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oil, saturated fat, trans-monounsaturated fat, and cis-monounsaturated fat.
After 20 weeks, the mice that had the active ACAT2 enzyme and were fed saturated fat and both types of monounsaturated fat had higher levels of cholesterol and more atherosclerosis than the mice that were fed polyunsaturated fats. All the mice without the ACAT2 enzyme were protected against atherosclerosis. The study also found that eliminating ACAT2 did not interfere with the normal processing of cholesterol.
The findings are reported online in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology and will appear in a future print issue.