Scientists predict that a vaccine designed to prevent heart attacks could be available within the next five years. Such a vaccine would use antibodies to combat atherosclerosis, a condition caused by the buildup of fatty plaque within arterial walls. If such a vaccine were to be approved, it would provide health care professionals with a novel method to treat heart disease.
Jan Nilsson, professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Research at Lund University in Sweden, speaking at the Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology (FCVB) 2012 meeting, said: "People at high risk of MI are likely to be the first candidates for immune approaches. Such treatments, since they are totally different modes of action, could be used in addition to the current therapies."
The treatment, which involves injecting patients with vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, arises out of work in the 1990s, wherein scientists identified antibodies against oxidized LDL cholesterol in arterial plaque. Investigators used that as a springboard for further tests.
Using The Immune System To Fight Heart Disease
Nilsson and co-researchers believed that cardiovascular disease is autoimmune i.e. the body attacks itself, which in this case would be oxidized LDL. Therefore, they immunized rabbits with high cholesterol with their own oxidized LDL. Rather than the expected result which would have been more aggressive atherosclerosis, the immunization instead served as a protection against the disease.
Through their experiment, Nilsson and his colleagues inadvertently shifted T cells from pro-inflammatory Th1 reponses to protective Th2 and regulatory responses. In other words, the research team discovered a way for the body to prevent heart disease by teaching it to produce antibodies against arterial plaque buildup.
Further research led to the development of a subcutaneously injected vaccine which is currently awaiting FDA approval before phase 1 clinical trials can begin. Researchers are also developing an intranasal vaccine. Scientists are currently conducting a trial involving 144 heart disease patients in the United States and Canada.
Nilsson is very optimistic about the new therapies. He told attendees of the FCVB conference: "If all goes well, the first in class of these treatments could be licensed within four to five years."
If monoclonal antibodies and vaccines against artherosclerosis were to be proven safe for humans, it would mean that physicians and patients would have a new way to combat heart disease. However, Nilson believes that high risk populations would be the focus of such therapies.
"Both these treatments are far more like drugs - to be effective they'd need to be given long term. The antibody therapy in particular is more likely to be expensive so you could probably only aford to give it to high risk populations rather than everyone."
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European Society of Cardiology Press release http://bit.ly/H9MEHy
"Scientists Predict Heart Disease Vaccine Within Five Years" copyright 2012 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.