Published online Dec 21, 2010. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i47.5908
Revised: August 25, 2010
Accepted: September 1, 2010
Published online: December 21, 2010
Cholesterol is of vital importance for the human body. It is a constituent for most biological membranes, it is needed for the formation of bile salts, and it is the precursor for steroid hormones and vitamin D. However, the presence of excess cholesterol in cells, and in particular in macrophages in the arterial vessel wall, might be harmful. The accumulation of cholesterol in arteries can lead to atherosclerosis, and in turn, to other cardiovascular diseases. The route that is primarily thought to be responsible for the disposal of cholesterol is called reverse cholesterol transport (RCT). Therefore, RCT is seen as an interesting target for the development of drugs aimed at the prevention of atherosclerosis. Research on RCT has taken off in recent years. In this review, the classical concepts about RCT are discussed, together with new insights about this topic.