A cholesterol-lowering vaccine has successfully prevented heart disease in mice — and humans could be next.
Known as AT04A, the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies that target an enzyme involved in regulating levels of blood cholesterol.
When injected into mice, the vaccine treatment cut their total blood cholesterol by 53% over 12 months and also protected against the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries.
Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna have now started the process of testing the vaccine on 72 human volunteers.
According to the researchers, the first phase of human trials should be completed by the end of the year.
Afterwards, they will check for possible side-effects before commencing more studies in people.
Gunther Staffler, chief technology officer at the Austrian biotech company AFFiRis, which developed the vaccine, said: “AT04A was able to induce antibodies that specifically targeted the enzyme PCSK9 throughout the study period in the circulation of the treated mice.
“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.
“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. This would result in an effective and more convenient treatment for patients, as well as higher patient compliance.”
The findings were published in the European Heart Journal.
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