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Obscure Enzyme May Play Major Role in Heart Disease

A little-known enzyme in the blood may play a significant role in preventing heart attack. A paper in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation, reports that paraoxonase prevents the oxidation of lowdensity lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad cholesterol" that is deposited in blood vessels and leads to heart disease. The paper is by Professor Michael Aviram, a biochemist at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

"Paraoxonase can break down oxidized LDL to non-harmful products," explains Aviram, adding that the discovery of this enzymes activity opens a possible new route to prevention of heart disease.

The real function of the enzyme has been a mystery. It was known to break down chemicals in insecticides and poison gases. But that was obviously not the complete story, as humans do not normally contain these substances in their blood, Aviram realized.

Researchers had previously found an inverse relationship between paraoxonase in the blood and the risk of heart disease. Less paraoxonase activity means higher risk; more, means lower risk.

The next step, Aviram said, is "to find out how to regulate the activity of paraoxonase and to increase its level in human blood. This could have very strong implications for heart disease therapy."

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the country's premier scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a world wide reputation for its pioneering work in communications, electronics, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine, among others. The majority of Israel's engineers are Technion graduates, as are most of the founders and managers of its high-tech industries.

The American Technion Society (ATS) is the university's support organization in the United States. Based in New York City, it is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel. The ATS has raised a total of $650 million since its inception in 1940, more than half of that during the last seven years

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