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Major Chinese study to probe genetics of high cholesterol
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Medicine are to conduct a major study of more than 30,000 Chinese people in an attempt to identify genes that cause high cholesterol.
Rising cholesterol levels and associated cardiovascular disease are a significant public health problem in China. The new study will involve over 30,000 people from Hong Kong and Guangdong province in southern China who have had regular health and cholesterol checks over recent years. In addition to identifying genes associated with high cholesterol levels, the researchers also plan to examine how far they match such genes in Western populations, and how effective common statins (such as Pfizer's Lipitor, AstraZeneca's Crestor and Merck & Co's Zocor) are in people with different genetic profiles.
The researchers say that statins, widely used to reduce cholesterol levels in many countries, are generally much less effective among southern Chinese populations. This study may indeed reveal genetic differences that account for this and could direct the development of new forms of cholesterol-lowering drugs that work better. This would be a prime example of population-level stratified medicine in action.