In­jec­tion of an­ti­bod­ies could cut risk of heart at­tacks and strokes

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By TOM BAWDEN

Thou­sands of lives could be saved ev­ery year af­ter sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered a group of an­ti­bod­ies that dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the risk of heart at­tacks and strokes – and re­vealed plans to de­velop an in­jec­tion of the sub­stance for those most at risk.

The re­searchers say their dis­cov­ery could lead to the de­vel­op­ment of a test to de­ter­mine a per­son’s risk of heart dis­ease within three years and an an­ti­body in­jec­tion to pro­tect them in as lit­tle as five years.

Lead re­searcher Ramzi Khamis, from Im­pe­rial Col­lege Lon­don, said: “If this line of re­search is suc­cess­ful it would mean a revo­lu­tion in tack­ling the biggest killer in the world.”

Everybody has at least some of these an­ti­bod­ies, but lev­els vary widely be­tween peo­ple and that plays a cru­cial role in de­ter­min­ing how likely they are to suf­fer life-threat­en­ing heart prob­lems.

The ef­fect of the an­ti­bod­ies is so pro­found that peo­ple with high lev­els of them are 70 per cent less likely to de­velop heart dis­ease than peo­ple with low lev­els of them, a new study has found.

High lev­els of the an­ti­bod­ies show their hosts have less of the dan­ger­ous plaques in their ar­ter­ies that cause most heart at­tacks and strokes.

The dis­cov­ery has the po­ten­tial to save numer­ous lives, lead­ing heart spe­cial­ists have said.

Dr Noel Fa­herty, se­nior re­search ad­viser at the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion, said: “Each year in the UK over 100,000 peo­ple die from a heart at­tack or stroke that has been caused by plaque on the inside of an artery. By dis­cov­er­ing which pa­tients have plaques that are more likely to rup­ture and why, we can save thou­sands of lives a year.”

He added: “We might be able to use new drugs to tweak the im­mune sys­tem to pre­vent peo­ple hav­ing a heart at­tack or stroke.”

The foun­da­tion funded much of the re­search and has given Dr Khamis – a con­sul­tant car­di­ol­o­gist at Ham­mer­smith Hosp­tial – £1 mil­lion to de­velop the study fur­ther. He is work­ing on a blood test to iden­tify peo­ple at high risk of heart dis­ease by mea­sur­ing lev­els of the an­ti­body. He hopes this will be avail­able on the NHS in the next three to four years.

Those peo­ple iden­ti­fied to be most at risk can then make life­style changes to re­duce the threat.

Even more sig­nif­i­cant, Dr Khamis is also de­vel­op­ing an an­ti­body in­jec­tion that could be given to peo­ple at high risk, which he hopes would be avail­able in the next five to ten years.

How­ever, he cau­tions more re­search is needed on both the test and the treat­ment to con­firm their ef­fec­tive­ness be­fore they could be­come avail­able.

The re­searchers do not yet know why some peo­ple have higher lev­els of the an­ti­bod­ies.


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