Cholesterol lowering gene changes which may increase the risk of cataracts

People who have genetic variations associated with lowering LDL-cholesterol similar to statin medications appear to have an increased risk of developing cataracts and having cataract surgery, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association(JAHA). JAHA is open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

Previous research has found some evidence that statin medications may increase the risk of cataracts. In this study, researchers explored whether certain genes that mimic the activity of statins may also independently increase the risk of developing cataracts.

Statin medications reduce levels of LDL-cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA-reductase (HMGCR). Previous research efforts have confirmed that variants in the HMGCR gene region of the human genome affect how people metabolize cholesterol.

Using the UK Biobank, a large database of UK residents that tracks serious health and medical conditions of nearly half a million adults, researchers analyzed genetic data for more than 402,000 people. The researchers focused on five common previously identified genetic variants that lower the level of LDL cholesterol. They then calculated genetic scores based on each variant’s previously identified impact on LDL cholesterol. Genetic coding data was examined to identify carriers of a rare mutation in the HMGCR gene called a predicted loss-of-function mutation.

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