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The biological functions of cholesterol are diverse, ranging from cell membrane integrity, cell membrane signaling, and immunity to the synthesis of steroid and sex hormones, vitamin D, bile acids, and oxysterols. Multiple studies have demonstrated hypocholesterolemia in sepsis, the degree of which is an excellent prognosticator of poor outcomes. However, the clinical significance of hypocholesterolemia has been largely unrecognized. We undertook a detailed review of the biological roles of cholesterol, the impact of sepsis, its reliability as a prognosticator in sepsis, and the potential utility of cholesterol as a treatment. Sepsis affects cholesterol synthesis, transport, and metabolism. This likely impacts its biological functions, including immunity, hormone and vitamin production, and cell membrane receptor sensitivity. Early preclinical studies show promise for cholesterol as a pleiotropic therapeutic agent. Hypocholesterolemia is a frequent condition in sepsis and an important early prognosticator. Low plasma concentrations are associated with wider changes in cholesterol metabolism and its functional roles, and these appear to play a significant role in sepsis pathophysiology. The therapeutic impact of cholesterol elevation warrants further investigation.


Daniel A Hofmaenner, Anna Kleyman, Adrian Press, Michael Bauer, Mervyn Singer. The Many Roles of Cholesterol in Sepsis: A Review. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine. 2022 Feb 15;205(4):388-396

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PMID: 34715007

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