Injection of antibodies could cut risk of heart attacks and strokes
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.