New Cholesterol Vaccine Shows Promising Results

Vaccine could be an alternative, or an assist, to taking statin drugs in some people with cholesterol issues.

A new vaccine that can lead to reducing the bad LDL cholesterol in your blood has been developed and is showing promising results in trials, according to a press release on eurekalert.org.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list around 73.5 million adults in the United States as having high cholesterol and, while diet and exercise are working to keep the numbers down, millions of people rely on statin drugs to keep their cholesterol under the recommended limits.

Statins, which have been in use for many years, are not without their own issues.  There are some potential side effects to taking statins long-term, including muscle weakness and a risk of diabetes and cognitive loss.

This new vaccine could provide a better alternative for many patients.  It works by targeting a protein, PCSK9, that works to break down the receptors that carry the cholesterol out of the body.  People that do not have this protein have a decreased risk of heart disease, and if those who do are able to use this new vaccine, their cholesterol levels can be lowered, thereby decreasing their risk as well.

Dr. Bryce Chackerian, one of the authors of the study from the University of New Mexico said one of the things that is exciting about the research is that the new vaccine seems to be much more effective than statins alone.

The concept of targeting the PCSK9 protein is not exactly new.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two new drugs, Alirocumab and Evolocumab, that seem to be effective, but the price is very high, with treatment costing as much as $10,000 per year.

The scientists first tested the vaccine on a group of mice with results showing a reduction in the LDL cholesterol levels, and proceeded to test a group of macaques with the vaccine and statins, and they noted a dramatic decrease in the cholesterol levels.

Statins are the most common of all cholesterol medicines, and they are working for many, said Dr. Alan Remaley, one of the authors of the study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.  But they have side effects and don’t work for everyone, he added.

The researchers say they plan to continue their work in the macaques and look for commercial partnerships to assist moving the technology along.

The findings from study, from the University of New Mexico and the National Institutes of Health, was published in Vaccine.

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