A cholesterol-lowering vaccine has shown promise in mice, said researchers on Tuesday who announced they had started early-phase trials to see if it also works in humans.
Such a treatment could offer a welcome alternative to statins, the main pharmaceutical choice today for lowering cholesterol in people at high risk of heart attack or stroke.
The vaccine, dubbed AT04A, reduced cholesterol levels in trial mice by half, and reversed damage done to blood vessels due to plaque build-up by more than 60%, researchers said in a statement.
The mice were given the vaccine after they were fed a fatty diet to resemble the high-cholesterol intake of a human Western-style diet.
“Levels of cholesterol were reduced in a consistent and long-lasting way,” said study co-author Guenther Staffler of the AFFiRis biotech. This resulted in “a reduction of fatty deposits in the arteries and atherosclerotic damage, and reduced arterial wall inflammation.” Atherosclerosis occurs when a waxy compound lines blood vessel walls, limiting blood flow and potentially triggering dangerous blood clots.
Statins have been used for about 30 years to bring down “bad” LDL cholesterol blamed for such deposits. But conflicting reports on statins’ benefits and harms have made headlines in recent years, prompting some people prescribed the drugs to stop taking them.