What the study says….
For the first time a research has shown the possibility of immunizing a genetically modified mice with a molecule that makes the body to produce antibodies against an enzyme that can stop the clearance of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from the blood – Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9).
The mice in the study were fed with fatty foods in order to generate high cholesterol and develop atherosclerosis. When the mice was injected by the vaccine AT04A , the cholesterol levels were reduced by 53%.
The study showed that damage by atherosclerosis was reduced by 64% in the blood vessels.There was about 21-28% reduction of biological markers of blood vessel inflammation in vaccinated mice. This was not with the case of non – vaccinated mice. The antibodies generated were functional throughout the course of study. Also their concentrations remained high till completion of the study.
The chief technology officer of the company that developed AT04A and one of the authors of the study- Dr Günther Staffler said:
AT04A was able to produce antibodies that targeted the enzyme PCSK9 throughout the study period in the circulation of the treated mice. As a result, levels of cholesterol were reduced in a long-lasting way, resulting in a reduction of fat deposits in the arteries and atherosclerotic damage, as well as reduced arterial wall inflammation.”
“The way that AT04A is administered is quite comparable to a vaccine,” explained Dr Staffler. “However, the difference between a conventional vaccine and our approach is that a vaccine induces antibodies that are specific to bacterial or viral proteins that are foreign to the body – pathogens – whereas AT04A induces antibodies against a target protein that is produced by the body – endogenous proteins. This is really an immunotherapeutic approach rather than a vaccine approach.”
The clinical study was started in 2015 in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria. It was conducted on 72 healthy people for assessing its safety and activity is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
Individual with LDL cholesterol at higher levels are at a great risk of developing heart disease early. It is either inherited genetically or is there due to poor diet or lifestyle. Diseases caused by atherosclerosis (heart and blood vessel diseases) have overtaken other infections as the major cause of illness and death in many places. There are few drugs available for lowering LDL cholesterol, but patients need to consume them regularly.
These drugs are tolerated well in general, but in some individuals they can cause ill effects such as rise in new onset diabetes. Monoclonal antibodies are very effective, they target PCSK9. It is the most recently approved compound that reduce cholesterol. They have short-term effects that result in re application and are of higher cost.
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