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Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2005;65(5):365-75.

Patients with atherosclerosis may have increased circulating levels of 27-hydroxycholesterol and cholestenoic acid.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine, Division of Clinical Chemistry, Karolinska University Hospital-Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden.


Extrahepatic sterol 27-hydroxylase (CYP27) appears to have a role in the elimination of excess cholesterol from various cells, particularly macrophages, and there is a net flux of 27-hydroxyycholesterol and its metabolites from different extrahepatic sources to the liver. In this study we tested the hypothesis that patients with advanced atherosclerosis may have higher levels of 27-oxygenated products in the circulation than control subjects. Concordant with previous studies, a strong correlation was observed between circulating levels of 27-hydroxycholesterol and cholesterol, in both healthy subjects and subjects with hypercholesterolemia and documented atherosclerosis. A group of male subjects with normal or only slightly elevated serum cholesterol and rapidly progressing carotid atherosclerosis (n = 20) had serum levels of 27-oxygenated cholesterol not statistically different from those of a matched group of subjects with little or no development of atherosclerosis (n = 20). The situation was similar in a group of patients (n = 20) with advanced general atherosclerosis associated with severe clinical symptoms. Among the two groups of patients with atherosclerosis, a few patients had relatively high levels of 27-oxygenated products. Among the healthy controls, two healthy volunteers (brother and sister) were found to have high levels of 27-hydroxycholesterol, most probably due to genetic reasons. The possibility is discussed that the high levels of 27-oxygenated products in the circulation of a few patients with atherosclerosis may be related to high amounts of active macrophages present in atherosclerotic lesions. In view of the number of factors that could affect the levels in the circulation, other explanations cannot be ruled out. At the present state of knowledge, measurements of circulating levels of 27-oxygenated metabolites do not seem to add useful information about the atherosclerotic process.

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