Visualization of cholesterol on cells via high-resolution mass spectroscopy

We all know that cholesterol is a vital lipid and is essential for maintaining the plasma membrane’s integrity in each cell of the body. However, the high cholesterol levels in the blood indicate a risk for coronary artery disease. A research team at the University of Western Australia and UCLA has designed a novel approach to visualizing the division of cholesterol in tissues and cells. Their study offers insights into the activity of cholesterol out and in of cells and can ultimately recognize mechanisms connecting cholesterol to the coronary artery disease.

With the use of a novel high-resolution visualizing mass spectrometry method known as NanoSIMS imaging, it was possible for the researchers to observe and compute a collection of cholesterol known as “accessible cholesterol” on the cell’s surface.

The accessible cholesterol present on the plasma membrane is considered to play a part in regulating cell’s generation of cholesterol and probably plays a part in the capability of cells to discharge excess cholesterol. These “accessible cholesterol” present on the cell’s surface can be identified with bacteria’s cholesterol-binding protein.

With the aid of the bacterial protein coupled with NanoSIMS imaging, the team demonstrated that the accessible cholesterol is not distributed evenly on the plasma membrane of a cell but instead is extremely enriched on specific protuberances from the plasma membrane known as microvilli.

Dr. Haibo Jiang mentioned that NanoSIMS imaging offers exclusive approaches into cholesterol division on the plasma membrane and upcoming studies will enable evaluation of methods by which cells set out surplus cholesterol.

Dr. Jiang said, “We desire to achieve a better comprehension of the methods of cholesterol activity in tissues and cells. We deem that NanoSIMS imaging can come up with novel approaches for reducing the levels of cholesterol blood or at least new strategies for enhancing the effects of accessible cholesterol-lowering drugs.”

The researchers are now planning to utilize NanoSIMS, coupled with novel biochemical methods, to assess cholesterol movement and distribution in multiple cell types.

Don’t you think the NanoSIMS imaging would provide new avenues for the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs?