New Research Shows How Cholesterol Can Lead to Cancer

2014-07-29 1,460

Professor Han 

POSTECH researchers have found another reason to cut down on a high-fat and cholesterol diet. Their findings show that cholesterol is crucial for Wnt signaling pathway often linked to human birth defects, cancer, and other diseases.
Research groups of Prof. Jin-Kwan Han in the Department of Life Sciences at POSTECH and Prof. Wonhwa Cho from the University of Illinois at Chicago performed this study.
Their research was published in the July edition of Nature Communications.
Wnt signaling processes biological functions through ‘canonical’ and ‘non-canonical’ pathways. However, little is known about the exact mechanisms for differential activation of each pathway.
Canonical Wnt signaling plays an important role in cell growth during embryonic development. It is when Wnt signaling is mutated or deregulated that it can cause health problems including the development of cancer. Dishevelled is a protein that plays central roles in Wnt signaling.
The study found that only canonical Wnt signaling cannot occur without cholesterol in the cell membrane being bound to Dishevelled. This suggests that cholesterol serves as not only structural component of the membrane but a selecting point between canonical and non-canonical pathways.
Because of its critical involvement in cancer and other diseases, the canonical Wnt pathway has been a major target for drug development. The scientists hope that these new findings will open up new possible therapeutic drugs that can suppress canonical Wnt signaling to treat or prevent cancer.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the World Class University program, and from the National Research Foundation of Korea.