Choles­terol vac­cine could be on the cards

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH -

A VAC­CI­NA­TION against high choles­terol could cut the risk of heart dis­ease with­out statins, re­search sug­gests.

The first hu­man tri­als of an in­jec­tion which pro­tects against dan­ger­ously high lev­els of choles­terol have be­gun.

Ex­perts hope the vac­cine, which is ad­min­is­tered once and then fol­lowed by an an­nual booster, could be avail­able in the UK in as lit­tle as six years.

Early tests on mice con­ducted at Lei­den Univer­sity in the Nether­lands showed that the vac­cine, known as AT04A, cut choles­terol by 53% and re­duced dam­age to blood ves­sels by 64%.

The com­pany be­hind the tech­nol­ogy hopes to tar­get peo­ple who can­not con­trol their choles­terol with statins – a high-risk group, in­clud­ing many who have suf­fered heart at­tacks, as well as those at lower risk, who do not want to take a daily pill or are wor­ried about the side-ef­fects.

Ex­perts think this could be a more re­li­able route to re­duc­ing choles­terol, be­cause peo­ple will not have to re­mem­ber to take their pills ev­ery day.

Roughly 6 mil­lion peo­ple in Bri­tain take statins to re­duce their risk of suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack, stroke or other form of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease. Another 6 mil­lion could ben­e­fit from the drugs, but do not take them.

Oliver Siegel, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Aus­trian biotech com­pany AFFiRis, said an an­nual in­jec­tion could be at­trac­tive to pa­tients, es­pe­cially those al­ready tak­ing many other drugs. He said: “A once-yearly shot at the same time as an an­nual check-up could be an al­ter­na­tive to statins.”

His com­pany, which is plan­ning to charge be­tween £1 000 (R16 581) and £2 000 for each in­jec­tion, is test­ing the drug on 72 pa­tients at the Med­i­cal Univer­sity of Vi­enna.

They hope to pub­lish re­sults at the be­gin­ning of next year.

“Op­ti­misti­cally, we could be on the market any­where be­tween 2023 and 2025,” Siegel said. The vac­cine works by boost­ing the way the body nat­u­rally clears choles­terol from the blood.

The new re­sults, pub­lished in the Euro­pean Heart Jour­nal, showed that mice fed a fatty diet had their blood choles­terol low­ered by 53% by the vac­cine. Re­search leader Dr Gun­ther Staffler, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at AFFiRis, said: “If these find­ings trans­late suc­cess­fully to hu­mans, we could de­velop a long-last­ing ther­apy that, af­ter the first vac­ci­na­tion, just needs an an­nual booster.”

But a Bri­tish ex­pert, Dr Tim Chico of Sh­effield Univer­sity, was doubt­ful. “This was a well-con­ducted but very early study. Many ques­tions re­main about whether it could work in man.” – Daily Mail

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