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Study Suggests New Vaccine Can Lower Cholesterol, Immunize Against CVD

Alison Rodriguez
A new vaccine may be able to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and, therefore, protect people against the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A new vaccine may be able to reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and, therefore, protect people against the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The European Heart Journal has recently published a study demonstrating the potential of immunizing genetically modified mice with a molecule that makes the body produce antibodies that work against the PCSK9 enzyme, therefore, preventing LDL cholesterol from entering the blood.

A poor diet or genetic inheritance can lead to high levels of LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, and create a larger risk of developing premature cardiovascular disease. Currently, statins may be taken to lower LDL cholesterol, but they can have negative side effects, and PCSK9 inhibitors are costly and insurers have restrictions on who can access PCSK9 inhibitors.

The AT04A vaccine utilized in the study demonstrated the ability to decrease the amount of cholesterol and blood vessel damage. When injected in mice that had been previously induced with high cholesterol foods, the total amount of cholesterol was reduced by 53%, atherosclerotic blood vessel damage was reduced by 64%, and blood vessel inflammation was reduced by 21% to 28% when compared with mice that hadn’t received the vaccination.

“AT04A was able to induce antibodies that specifically targeted the enzyme PCSK9 throughout the study period in the circulation of the treated mice,” Dr Günther Staffler, chief technology officer at AFFiRis and an author of the study, said in a statement. “As a consequence, levels of cholesterol were reduced in a consistent and long-lasting way, resulting in a reduction of fatty deposits in the arteries and atherosclerotic damage, as well as reduced arterial wall inflammation.”

The results show that the function of PCSK9 is blocked because of the antibodies produced by the AT04A vaccine, allowing the LDL cholesterol receptor activity to be increased. This is important because the PCSK9 enzyme is made in the liver and locks on to these receptors, making it more difficult to reduce the LDL cholesterol in the blood.

“If these findings translate successfully into humans, this could mean that, as the induced antibodies persist for months after a vaccination, we could develop a long-lasting therapy that, after the first vaccination, just needs an annual booster,” Staffler said. “This would result in an effective and more convenient treatment for patients, as well as higher patient compliance.”

The researchers hope to continue investigating the long-term effects of the vaccine and addressing the unknown safety factors in humans.

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