This is an intriguing result, though it is worth noting that - per the published paper - it was carried out in animals genetically altered to rapidly develop atherosclerosis. This is a common approach in exploratory studies: use a model in which the disease process runs more rapidly than normal, so as to bring down costs and time, but it opens the possibility for a potential treatment to only undo some of the effects of the model rather than actually working against the normal, much slower disease mechanisms. So the next step in this case is to run the experiment in unmodified laboratory animals and see what happens:
Working with mice and rabbits, [scientists] have found a way to block abnormal cholesterol production, transport and breakdown, successfully preventing the development of atherosclerosis, the main cause of heart attacks and strokes and the number-one cause of death among humans. The condition develops when fat builds inside blood vessels over time and renders them stiff, narrowed and hardened, greatly reducing their ability to feed oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle and the brain.
[Researchers] identified and halted the action of a single molecular culprit responsible for a range of biological glitches that affect the body's ability to properly use, transport and purge itself of cholesterol - the fatty substance that accumulates inside vessels and fuels heart disease. The offender, the researchers say, is a fat-and-sugar molecule called glycosphingolipid, or GSL, which resides in the membranes of all cells, and is mostly known for regulating cell growth. Results of the experiments, the scientists say, reveal that this very same molecule also regulates the way the body handles cholesterol.
The [team] used an existing man-made compound called D-PDMP to block the synthesis of the GSL molecule, and by doing so, prevented the development of heart disease in mice and rabbits fed a high-fat, cholesterol-laden diet. The findings reveal that D-PDMP appears to work by interfering with a constellation of genetic pathways that regulate fat metabolism on multiple fronts - from the way cells derive and absorb cholesterol from food, to the way cholesterol is transported to tissues and organs and is then broken down by the liver and excreted from the body.