Do you suffer from high cholesterol? There might be a vaccine for that. Researchers have found a vaccine that targets a particular protein, and that has thus far proven able to dramatically reduce cholesterol levels in macaque monkeys and mice.
The protein in question is the PCSK9 protein, which has been found to encourage the breakdown of the receptors that cholesterol binds to before it is flushed out of the human body. Interestingly, those people who don’t produce the protein at all have been found to experience a decreased risk of heart disease. Meanwhile, some people suffering from mutations in the protein that increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
The vaccine isn’t the first drug to target this particular protein. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved two drugs that specifically target PCSK9 and have been found to reduce cholesterol levels. So far, however, the FDA has restricted the use of these drugs for specific hard-to-treat genetic conditions and other specific heart disease issues.
Besides being restricted in their use, these drugs are exceptionally expensive, costing between $7,000 to $12,000 dollars per year for a single patient. Researchers believe that the vaccine could cost much less.
Currently, besides the above mentioned drugs and dietary control, a type of drugs referred to as statins is often used to treat high cholesterol. A wide range of drugs are classified as statins, like Lipitor, Livalo, Crestor, Altoprev, and Zocor. Statins must be taken daily.
First, the researchers tested the vaccine on mice by itself, and found that it did indeed lower bad cholesterol levels. For the next round of tests they combined the vaccine with statins in macaques, and found that cholesterol levels dropped even more dramatically.
For now, researchers plan to carry on with tests in macaques. Eventually, researchers hope to test the vaccine on humans.
If effective, the vaccine could help address high cholesterol levels at a low cost. This will be no small achievement given that cholesterol has been linked to heart disease, and that heart disease is one of the world’s leading killers.