Whether made by the body or ingested through diet, cholesterol plays a vital role in cells. Cholesterol also is a building block of steroids and hormones, including those that trigger puberty and support pregnancy. A new study, led by Daniel Ory, MD, implicates a surprising regulator of cholesterol in cells’ ability to make these hormones, especially in tissues associated with fertility, such as the ovaries.
Excess nutrients, such as fat and sugar, don’t just pack on the pounds but can push some cells in the body over the brink. Unable to tolerate this “toxic” environment, these cells commit suicide. Now, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have discovered three unexpected players that help a cell overloaded with fat initiate its own demise.