Popular Press vs. Scientific Journal Articles:
A Cholesterol Gene?

This web page was produced as an assignment for an undergraduate course at Davidson College.

Endothelial lipase (LIPG)


    Over the past several years, numerous studies have found evidence suggesting that endothelial lipase plays a large role in the metabolism of high density lipoproteins (HDL) or what is frequently referred to as good cholesterol.  Specifically, studies have found that by knocking out the LIPG gene (which encodes the protein, endothelial lipase) in mice, levels of HDL-cholesterol increased significantly (Ma, et al.).  Decreased levels of HDL-cholesterol have been associated with increased risk for a range of heart-related problems, including atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.  Scientists are now looking at the possibility of manipulating the LIPG gene as a means to increase HDL production and thus decrease such aforementioned risks.

Diagram of endothelial lipase as it relates to HDL

    Interestingly enough, such information is presented to the public in strikingly different ways depending on where one looks.  As one might very well guess, scientific journal articles present information in a formal fashion, focusing on the scientific procedure and data.  Most frequently these articles revisit a study that has been performed by the author(s), outlining the methods used and discussing the results received.  On the other end of the spectrum is the popular press article, which tends to present information in a highly generalized and non-scientific manner based on the assumption that the majority of readers do not hold advanced degrees in whatever scientific field the research pertains to.  In the case of endothelial lipase, the following scientific journal article and popular press article are good examples for highlighting their fundamental differences in presentation and content.  Links to both articles can be found within the references section at the bottom of this page.

Scientific Journals

    In "Endothelial lipase is a major genetic determinant for high-density lipoprotein concentration, structure, and metabolism," written by Ke Ma et al. and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the usual and accepted format for scientific journal articles is followed; the article is introduced by an abstract, which is then followed in order by the introduction, materials and methods, results and discussion, acknowledgements, notes, etc.  Figures and tables are used extensively to better demonstrate the data and evidence used to arrive at the authors' conclusions.  The use of first-person pronouns is reserved only for the results and discussion section, and even then they are used sparingly.  The scientific journal article caters toward a rather eductaed audience, assuming that the reader has significant experience within the field that the article is written.  It does not bother to explain general terms, concepts, or methods.

Popular Press

    The article published in the Toronto Star newspaper is very basic and to the point, without much elaboration on details.  It presents the main ideas, gives some general definitions, and even provides one example of statistical data.  Additionally, the newspaper article provides quotations, something that the scientific journal article does not.  However, the article is primarily directed towards a rather lay audience. 


    As one might easily see, the difference between the two articles is fundamentally rooted in the manner in which each is read and by whom.  Popular press articles tend to be read quickly by a general audience trying to simply get the jist of the latest news, whereas articles from scientific journals are read primarily by those engaged in scientific study and frequently for further research.


Ma, K., et al. "Endothelial lipase is a major genetic determinant for high-density lipoprotein concentration, structure, and metabolism."
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Vol. 100, No. 5 (2003): 2748-2753. 10 Sept. 2006

PLoS Medicine Slideshow. 10 Sept. 2006

"Scientists find 'good cholesterol' gene." Toronto Star 7 Feb. 2003: D04. 10 Sept. 2006

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