Purpose of review: Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease; we highlight the most recent research initiatives that have sought to define Lp(a)-dependent pathogenicity as well as pharmacologic approaches to lowering Lp(a).
Recent findings: Recent large-scale meta-analyses have confirmed elevated Lp(a) concentrations to be a moderate but consistent prospective coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factor. The Mendelian randomization approach has also associated LPA variants with Lp(a) concentration and CHD risk. Discoveries linking Lp(a) to oxidized phospholipid burden have implicated a proinflammatory role for Lp(a) hinting at a new mechanism underlying the association with CHD risk, which adds to previous atherogenic and thrombogenic mechanisms. Most existing Lp(a)-lowering drug treatments almost always show simultaneous effects on other lipoproteins, making it difficult to assign any clinical outcome specifically to the effects of Lp(a) lowering. Early experiments with antisense oligonucleotides targeting apolipoprotein(a) mRNA seem to indicate the pleiotropic effects of Lp(a) reduction on LDL and HDL in mice. The mechanism linking Lp(a) concentration with concentrations of other blood lipids remains unknown but may provide an insight into Lp(a) metabolism.
Summary: Despite the wealth of epidemiologic evidence supporting Lp(a) concentration as a CHD risk factor, the lack of a definitive functional mechanism involving an Lp(a)-dependent pathway in CHD pathogenesis has limited the potential clinical connotation of Lp(a). However, the application of novel technologies to the long-standing mysteries of Lp(a) biology seems to provide the opportunity for expanding our understanding of Lp(a) and its complex role in cardiovascular health.