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Cholesterol vaccine works in mice, poised for first human tests

June 27, 2017            

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Sounds a bit far-fetched—but if the imagination of researchers bears ideal fruit, then high cholesterol may be permanently preventable one day with a simple injected vaccine.


Vaccines work by “teaching” the body’s immune system to kill specific viruses.  They do this by introducing dead viruses which the immune system then “learns” how to kill without the patient getting the disease.


Scientists are now trying to “teach” the immune system to attack a mechanism in the body’s cholesterol-making process—essentially creating a vaccine against high cholesterol.


To test this concept, researchers at European biotech firm AFFiRiS developed a “vaccine” called AT04A.  The vaccine (actually a molecule) was given to a group of lab mice. 


Over an 18-week period, the vaccinated mice showed lower cholesterol and less fatty build-up damage to their blood vessels than did a comparison group of unvaccinated mice.


The vaccine worked by making the mouse immune systems attack PCSK9, an enzyme that helps make “bad” LDL cholesterol.  High LDL levels cause heart disease, the top cause of U.S. deaths.


With the mouse experiment successful, AFFiRiS—which believes immunotherapy could potentially prevent chronic disease, and is also working on a Parkinson’s vaccine—is now planning a Phase I clinical trial to test its experimental cholesterol-lowering vaccine in humans.


That trial could be complete by the end of 2017, according to the company.


The mouse study was published June 19 in the European Heart Journal.