JUN 21, 2017 07:41 PM PDT

A Vaccine for Heart Disease?

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

There’s a new vaccine to protect against high cholesterol and its consequences: atherosclerotic plaques that block blood flow through the vessels, blood carrying vital oxygen and nutrients. From the European Society of Cardiology, the vaccine’s newest clinical trial in humans is set to conclude at the end of the year.

 A cross section of a mouse aortic blood vessel: in a mouse immunized with AT04A with little or no plaque. Image credit: The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research

 

Before beginning the human trials, researchers studied the vaccine thoroughly in mice genetically altered to be prone to high levels of cholesterol. The mice were fed a fatty diet reminiscent of what many people who end up with high cholesterol levels choose, and this diet induced high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

On a molecular level, the vaccine, made up of a chemical called AT04A, produces antibodies to inhibit an enzyme called PCSK9, a protein produced in the liver. PCSK9 expression prevents the body from eliminating “bad” cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (as compared to “good” cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL)) by binding LDL cholesterol receptors and preventing other cells from clearing out LDL.

“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,” explained study author Dr. Gunther Staffler.

What causes a person to have high levels of LDL in the first place? Largely poor lifestyle choices. Genetics are also involved, like the inheritance of genes making a person more vulnerable to high LDL than others with different genes but similar lifestyles. Increasing rates of people with high cholesterol has led to more and more cases of atherosclerosis and other heart diseases. Drugs like statins are prescribed to lower LDL cholesterol, can cause negative side effects. Plus, statins are just a treatment for a largely preventable condition.

A Preventative Option: The Vaccine

During the trials in mice models, the AT04A vaccine was injected under the skin and over time produced very promising results:

  • Total cholesterol reduced by 53 percent

  • Atherosclerosis severity reduced by 64 percent

  • Biological markers of blood vessel inflammation reduced by 21-28 percent

All of the changes in cholesterol and atherosclerosis were compared to mice induced to have high cholesterol and atherosclerosis but were not injected with AT04A. Additionally, the vaccine seemed to have a long-lasting effect, with reduction in dangerous markers increasing as the antibody concentration increased.

“We could develop a long-lasting therapy that, after the first vaccination, just needs an annual booster,” Staffler said about the human clinical trials. “This would result in an effective and more convenient treatment for patients, as well as higher patient compliance."

How is this therapy considered a “vaccine”?

"The way that AT04A is administered is comparable to a vaccine," Staffler explained. "However, the difference between a conventional vaccine and our approach is that a vaccine induces antibodies that are specific to bacterial or viral proteins that are foreign to the body - pathogens - whereas AT04A induces antibodies against a target protein that is produced by the body - endogenous proteins. This it is really an immunotherapeutic approach rather than a vaccine approach."

The human clinical trial to study the efficacy of AT04A in lowering LDL and reducing progression of atherosclerosis began in 2015 and is expected to be finished at the end of this year.

The present study is published in the European Heart Journal.

Source: European Society of Cardiology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 10, 2018
Immunology
MAY 10, 2018
New Biomarker for Lung Cancer Diagnosis
Lung cancer is the most common cause of death from cancer for both genders and for people all over the globe. This is largely due to the lack of diagnostic...
MAY 22, 2018
Cancer
MAY 22, 2018
Novel PD-L1/TGF-ß Fusion Protein for HPV-Associated Cancers Enters Phase II Clinical Trial
Novel PD-L1/TGF-ß fusion protein for HPV-associated cancers enters phase II clinical trial. Oncology researchers excited about the potential of this bi-functional protein to combat cancer...
JUN 14, 2018
Health & Medicine
JUN 14, 2018
Beware of Hotel Room Germs
Recently the CDC came out with a study that showed nearly 1/3 of swimming-related illnesses from 2000-2014 could be traced back to pathogens found in hotel...
JUL 09, 2018
Immunology
JUL 09, 2018
Protein Complex Determines the Fate of T cells
The protein complex mTORC1 has been shown to integrate metabolic and signaling activity to determine the fate of T cell lineage between alpha beta and gamma delta....
AUG 02, 2018
Immunology
AUG 02, 2018
Chronic Infections Outsmart the Immune System
Chronic parasitic infection shown to take advantage of a mechanism to sustain infection and induce death of white blood cells essential to immune response....
AUG 06, 2018
Immunology
AUG 06, 2018
Maternal Dengue Immunity Protects Against Infant Zika Infection
Maternal Dengue immunity produces CD8+ T cells that protect against fetal Zika infection preventing zika-related malformations....
Loading Comments...