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Edinburgh study finds cholesterol link to immune system

Cholesterol
Image caption Cholesterol can build up in blood vessels causing damage

Lowering cholesterol could help the body's immune system fight viral infections, researchers have said.

A study by Edinburgh University scientists found when the body succumbs to a viral infection a hormone in the immune system lowers cholesterol.

Cholesterol produced by cells is needed for viruses to grow.

Therefore limiting the body's cholesterol would curb the chance for viruses to thrive, the researchers said.

The academics also said it may be possible to use cholesterol-lowering drugs to boost the immune system.

Professor Peter Ghazal, of the university's division of pathway medicine, said: "What we have discovered is that a key immune hormone stimulated upon infection can lower cholesterol levels and thereby deprive viral infections of the sustenance they need to grow.

"Drugs currently exist to lower cholesterol levels, but the next step would be to see if such drugs would also work to help bolster our immune systems."

The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the British Heart Foundation.

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