Sunday, October 25, 2009

The good, the bad and the magic pill

You eat. Let's say eggs. Eggs and bacon. And, some toast.

The fat and cholesterol get zapped by some pancreas juice and broken into smaller pieces. They float into your intestine, get packaged up with a phospholipid shirt and a protein hat. A clever little huckster convinces the package to give up it's fat in exchange for...nothing. The clever cheat shoves the fat in a nearby cell and floats away. The remaining shrively package gets sent to headquarters...the liver. HQ can take the cholesterol that's left in the package, puff it up, repackage it and send it back out there. With a fresh shirt and three hats, it ends up selling a couple hats for snacks and end up chock full of cholesterol. He looks like a fat guy in a little coat. His protein hat is tiny and his cholesterol belly is enormous, hanging out. That's LDL. Low density lipoprotein (lots of lightweight fat, not much heavy protein). He's the bad guy.

He can prowl around looking for a home indefinitely. If he's out on the streets all night long, he might find some kindhearted cell to take him in, but he might run into a gang and get oxidized. If he's oxidized, he loses his mind, starts foaming and ends up lodging in an atherosclerotic lesion. Enough LDL's on the street, getting oxidized, lodging in lesions...some artery gets blocked with the nasty foamyness. Then, that's real trouble.

Fortunately for you, there are good guys to counteract this evil. A fit, muscular superhero with a large protein cape and just enough fat to not look scrawny roams the streets collecting bloated LDLs from the kindly neighbors who might have taken them in, and returns them to the liver to be dealt with by a higher authority. That's HDL. High density lipoprotein. He's the good guy. He actually chases down the slacker bad guy, hauls him off and gets him help.

As you can imagine, it's important to have a good ratio of superheroes to bad guys, or the whole happily ever after thing gets kind of screwed up. As if this wasn't enough, your body actually makes it's own cholesterol - you need it for making hormones, membranes, etc. So, there's LDL, parading his cholesterol-filled self all over the place, and your own cells are churning out cholesterol. Our whole town is threatened to be overrun.

There's a magic little pill to keep us in fairy tale land. Magic pill puts a wrench in the pipe that makes bodily cholesterol. Now, your neighborhood is panicking...where are they going to get the supplies they need to make doors, messengers, etc.? They start taking in bloated LDLs they find on the street like nobody's business...and sacrificing them (ok, so my story breaks down a little here...creepy neighbors, but go with it). They pull out the cholesterol inside LDL, use it for making doors, messengers and if they have any extras, superhero HDL will be by tonight to take it away. That's a statin. And it has saved millions and millions of happily ever afters.

Of course, the best possible solution is to stop throwing away the neighborhood by inviting so many bad guys into your city. But, it's pretty impressive that even if you make a few mistakes, you might still have a happy ending.

The End.

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