The UCLA-led study revealed that the gene, called MeXis, acts within key cells inside clogged arteries to help remove excess cholesterol from blood vessels.
It found that MeXis controls the expression of a protein that pumps cholesterol out of cells in the artery wall.
MeXis is an example of a "selfish" gene, one that is presumed to have no function because it does not make a protein product.
"Considering many genes like MeXis have completely unknown functions, our study suggests that further exploring how other long non-coding RNAs act will lead to exciting insights into both normal physiology and disease."
That 1981 class of African American NEA fellowship winners included poets Amiri Baraka, Steve Cannon, Wanda Coleman, Calvin Forbes, June Jordan, Bob Kaufman, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Audre Lorde, and poet/novelist/playwright Mexis