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Vaccine Against Atherosclerosis Under Development

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According to recent studies, new therapeutic strategies to treat atherosclerosis are based on immunological approaches. Discussions on combating atherosclerosis by vaccines and monoclonal antibodies were held at the meeting  Frontiers in Cardiovascular Biology (FCVB), held from March 30 until April 1 to at the South Kensington Campus of Imperial College in London.

Atherosclerosis is a disease characterized by narrowing of arteries due to fat deposit in blood vessels, such as cholesterol. Atherosclerosis is a disease that develops over time and can cause heart attack or stroke. According to some studies, the disease kills 2 million people per year in Europe. Atherosclerosis is in fact a chronic inflammatory disease  promoted by  LDL (low density lipoproteins). Once inside in a  blood vessel wall, LDL is oxidized by free radicals. This results in a  complicated cascade of immune reactions that in time lead to plaque formation.

Currently, treatment for atherosclerosis is based on reducing risk factors, such as lowering lipids, hypertension, and hyperglycemia. Dr. Nilsson, who is Professor of Experimental Cardiovascular Research at Lund University, Sweden, noted that these conventional therapies are effective only for 40% of patients and that there remains a significant 60% where atherosclerosis cannot be combated.

The idea of such a role of the immune system in the atherosclerosis process is not completely new. Since the 1990s atherosclerosis has been regarded as an autoimmune disease. Then, scientists believed that the immune system attacks the plaque oxidized LDL. After many hours of research, scientists have sought to identify and create structures to induce a protective response and to block the appearance of plaque.

The researchers have analyzed and identified three fragments of amino acids that form apoproteins B, proteins consistently associated with LDL. One of the three fragments enter the CVX-210 vaccine, which is about to be approved by the FDA. The vaccine is in a phase 1 clinical trial. Also is under development is a second vaccine, with  intranasal administration, vaccine based, like the first one,  on one of the fragments of amino acids apo B.



Furthermore, researchers are working on a different therapeutic target to treat atherosclerosis, that is preventing LDL oxidation by monoclonal antibodies. Preclinical studies have shown that by injecting monoclonal antibody BI-204, the process of atherosclerosis is reduced by 50%. Currently, BI-204 is in Phase 2 clinical study and is tested on patients with coronary artery disease in 20 centers in U.S. and Canada. The results are promising but Dr. Nilsson notes that these therapies are expensive.” 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 said.