A new vaccine could reduce cholesterol and make the daily intake of statins no longer necessary in order to keep the cholesterol levels in check. A team of researchers working at the National Institutes of Health and the University of New Mexico have been working on a study that suggests such a vaccine could be used to treat people with high cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol rates are a growing health concern for millions of Americans as they can lead to blocked arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. While standard treatment courses include a daily intake of statins and other similar drugs, as well as a change in dietary habits and a regular exercise program, complications occurring from high cholesterol levels can lead to the need for surgical interventions such as angioplasty and bypass.
The new vaccine the scientists have been working on could target the LDL cholesterol, or the harmful cholesterol, and reduce it to normal levels in the human body. So far the vaccine has been tested on both mice and monkeys and has shown promising effects on both. Researchers are still testing out the vaccine on animals and, should the results continue to be as encouraging as they have been so far, they could begin human trials soon.
Should the vaccine prove to be a safe alternative to the daily dose of statins most patients with high cholesterol levels need to take at the moment, it could replace this standard course of treatment, as researchers developing the vaccine have stated that, so far, it seems to be more effective in lowering cholesterol levels than the statins are.
Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver and is a form of fat found in the bloodstream that helps build cell walls and produce hormones. While the human body needs cholesterol in order to function properly, high levels of this type of fat can actually clog arteries and lead to health complications, particularly to heart disease.
Researchers have identified a specific protein within the human body that affects the cholesterol levels found in the blood. This protein, called PCSK9 directly controls how much cholesterol our body produces and, as a result, people with low levels of the protein also have a lower risk of heart disease, while people with mutated versions of the PCSK9 protein have a higher risk.
This has lead researchers to a new method of fighting high cholesterol levels by trying to control the PCSK9 protein. The new vaccine was designed to stop the protein from working and has so far had the effect of lowering cholesterol levels in the mice and monkeys that it was tested on. Its effectiveness remains to be truly seen during the upcoming human trials.
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