Scientists have found novel genes linked with 'bad' cholesterol, paving the way for new therapies to treat the important heart disease risk factor.
'Bad' LDL cholesterol can block blood vessels
High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol cause harm by clogging the arteries.
Experts said the UK study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics could ultimately save many lives.
Coronary heart disease is the UK's biggest killer, behind one-in-four male and one-in-six female deaths.
Cardiovascular disease kills 233,000 people a year in the UK, and an estimated 16.7 million a year world-wide.
The fatty deposits inside arteries can trigger problems by breaking off and blocking blood flow.
The Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry team carried out a detailed study of the entire human DNA sequence to pinpoint which genes might be involved.
They found a new region on chromosome 1 that appeared to influence LDL cholesterol. This DNA was associated with a 6% increase in blood LDL levels.
Professor Patricia Munroe said: "Our study found new genes for serum LDL, the cholesterol which furs arteries.
"We believe our findings are of significant clinical importance as they are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease; they also represent excellent targets for new medicines."
Professor Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation said: "This finding has the potential to lead to the development of new drugs to help lower cholesterol levels which in turn could help thousands of heart patients across the UK."