(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Niacin is known to help lower levels of “bad”
cholesterol and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, and it gets the job down
at a significantly lower cost than other cholesterol lowering medications on
the market today.
Unfortunately, the drug, also known as nicotinic acid, is rarely used
anymore due to a troublesome side effect. Specifically, it can cause
unwanted flushing of the skin that leads to a burning sensation and itching.
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center are working on a possible
solution that could once again put niacin on the radar screen for people
with high cholesterol. Their research has uncovered the signaling pathway
that lead to the flushing seen in some patients.
The pathway goes like this: a protein called beta-arrestin is recruited to a
receptor called GPR109A that’s known to bind to nicotinic acid. When the
investigators eliminated a certain form of beta-arrestin in mice, nicotinic
acid-related flushing was significantly decreased.
The investigators believe it may be possible to design a nicotinic acid drug
that binds to GPR109A without stimulating the recruitment of beta-arrestin.
The result could be a flush-free medication more people could tolerate.
“This opens up whole new realms for drug discovery,” study author Robert
Walters, M.D., was quoted as saying. “Not only could it lead to new
niacin-based therapies for cholesterol that patients could actually stick
with, but it could also mean new treatments for flushing that comes with
some types of allergic reactions, hives and other disorders.”
SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, published online April 6, 2009