Scientists have made a major breakthrough in the prevention of heart attacks after developing a vaccine that dramatically reduces fat in the arteries.
The drug, which can be administered by injection or nasal spray, could be available within five years.
Current treatment involves medication that reduces cholesterol and blood pressure.
But the study by Lund University in Sweden is the first which has targeted the underlying cause of heart disease.
Prof Peter Weissberg, the British Heart Foundation medical director, said the vaccine was ‘very promising’.
Fatty deposits can place great strain on the heart by narrowing the arteries and forcing it to pump far harder.
The fatty plaques build up in the blood vessels feeding the heart and over time become narrowed. Parts of the plaque, known as atheroma, may break off causing a clot to form which can block the artery causing a heart attack.
This treatment works by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies which tackle this build-up.
Working with Prof Prediman Shah, from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, the team were able to formulate a vaccine that reduced plaque build up by 60 to 70 per cent in mice.
The resulting injection is waiting regulatory clearance to start clinical trials.
The resulting CVX-210 vaccine, currently in development as an injection by CardioVax, is waiting regulatory clearance to start clinical trials.
A second vaccine using the same materials has been formulated as a nasal spray, Prof Nilsson said.
Prof Nilsson said: “The rationale is that since oxidized LDL plays a major role in the development of atherosclerotic plaques and harmful inflammatory processes, directly targeting oxidized LDL should prevent plaque formation and reduce inflammation.”
Early studies have shown that the antibody, called BI-204, developed jointly by BioInvent and Genentech, reduced plaques by half and was well tolerated when tested in 80 healthy people.
A trial of BI-204 in 144 people with heart disease is underway in America and Canada where body scans will measure plaques in the arteries over time. But Prof Jan Nilsson, professor of experimental cardiovascular research at Lund University, said it was unlikely that the drug would be administered like traditional vaccines in childhood.
‘The antibody therapy in particularly is likely to be expensive, so you could probably only afford to give it to high-risk populations rather than everyone,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
Different ways of administering the vaccine are being developed and could be licensed within five years, the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology conference at Imperial College London was told.
Attribution: Daily Telegraph