Cholesterol-lowering jab to help prevent heart disease

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Human trials of a cholesterol-lowering vaccine to help prevent heart disease are under way after successful studies in mice.

Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna are testing the safety of their experimental treatment in 72 volunteers.

The jab is designed to stop fatty deposits from clogging the arteries.

It would offer patients an alternative to taking daily pills to cut their risk of stroke, angina and heart attacks.

Booster jab

It will take years more of testing to know if the treatment will be safe and effective enough for human use, Dr Guenther Staffler and colleagues from The Netherlands Organisation of Applied Scientific Research say in the European Heart Journal.

Even if it does become available, in six years’ time, it should not be seen as an excuse for people to avoid exercise and eat lots of high-fat food, they add.

The jab helps the body’s immune system to attack a protein, called PCSK9, that would otherwise allow “bad” low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to build up in the bloodstream.

The researchers envisage that patients could have a yearly booster shot to top up their immunity.

In mice, the treatment cuts LDL cholesterol by up to 50% over 12 months and appears to protect against the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis).


What is cholesterol?

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Image caption

Blocked arteries impede blood flow

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in the blood. We all need it, but too much “bad” LDL cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“Good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, on the other…

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