Vitamin offers lipid treatment hope

Vitamin B3 could form the basis of a new lipid drug after researchers uncovered the mechanism behind side-effects that have limited its usefulness.

The vitamin, also known as niacin, has been found to lower triglyceride, fatty acid and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and to raise high-density lipoprotein levels.

But it also leads to uncontrollable blushing, limiting its acceptability.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina examined the molecular pathways triggered by niacin.

Through a series of laboratory and animal studies, the researchers found that niacin stimulated production of two proteins. One, beta-arrestin 1, causes the vasodilation associated with the blushing. The other, GP109A, leads to the changes in fatty acid and cholesterol levels.

The researchers are examining drugs stimulating GP109A but not beta-arrestin 1.

'This might give us a way to keep all the lipid-modifying benefits of niacin, but isolate its downside,' the researchers say.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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