Researchers have uncovered genetic clues as to the roots of the high cholesterol counts common amongst the general public.

In a report published today in the journal Science, the liver was identified as a cause of high cholesterol problems. People who suffered from four different kind of inherited “bad” high cholesterol (LDL) were all found to have livers that could not properly function in clearing fats from the blood.

Dr Joseph L. Goldstein and Dr Michael S. Brown, from the Dallas-based University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, now believe that the liver’s impaired function, and hence the levels of LDL in the blood, can now be controlled by a yet-unidentified gene.

Brown explains that while the majority of people eat a diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, the key triggers known to increase LDL and a person’s chances of developing heart disease, not everyone is actually susceptible to the health effects of such a diet.

He added that the work by researchers in this field has “exposed a group of genes” that affect LDL levels for some people and that eventually scientists will be able to tailor-make drugs for people suffering from high cholesterol, according to their genetic structure.