A recently developed cholesterol vaccine has been hailed as the new medical cure, after it was determined that it can significantly lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
The groundbreaking discovery was published in the journal Vaccine, by a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health in the United States, and the University of New Mexico.
Apparently, so far animal trials have been conducted on mice and macaques, and it was proven that this new treatment can actually be more effective than statins, which are hugely popular nowadays for improving lipid profiles.
Approximately 73.5 million American adults (the equivalent of a third of the population) are affected by overly high levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, but less than a half actually take medicine for their condition, data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed.
Also, by the year 2012, around 93% of those patients who took medication in order to lower their cholesterol opted for statins, such as Lipitor, and the overall use of these drugs had also boomed from 18% to 26%.
This upward trend has continued despite a slew of adverse side effects, such as muscle pain and damage, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, liver damage, digestive issues, and neurological impairment (memory loss and confusion).
Clinical trials have shown that statins are indeed effective in lowering the likelihood of suffering heart attack, stroke or premature death, but now it seems that this type of medication finally has a worthy competitor.
The vaccine works by influencing the activity of a protein which affects blood cholesterol levels. In the liver, the enzyme can bind to the LDL receptor, which normally eliminates LDL cholesterol from the blood. As a result, the LDL receptor no longer functions correctly, and bad cholesterol levels keep escalating.
When people have a mutated version of the PCSK9 gene which encodes this protein, they experience a heightened risk of developing heart disease. On the other hand, those who lack this compound have a lowered probability of having cardiovascular issues.
When a single dose of the newly invented vaccine is administered, it can block the enzyme’s activity, and as a result blood cholesterol levels can be reduced.
The beneficial results achieved by using this type of vaccine were proven when testing the drug on mice, and also on a group of macaques. The new treatment even managed to improve the effectiveness of statins, when administered in conjunction with them.
Recently The Food and Drug Administration has approved monoclonal antibodies such as Evolocumab (Repatha) or Alirocumab (Praluent), which also inhibit PCSK9.
However, these injectable drugs can be used predominantly by those who are statin-intolerant, or by others with familial hypercholesterolemia (a genetic disorder causing high cholesterol levels). They are also extremely expensive, treatments costing between $7,000 and 12,000 on a yearly basis.
In contrast, the vaccine seems to have a much broader use, is a much cheaper option, and its results appear even more remarkable.
Now, study authors intend to conduct further research on a larger group of macaques and on human volunteers as well, so that one day this revolutionary vaccine can be widely available.
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