A vaccine to reduce cholesterol is currently in the works and researchers believe it has the potential to be more powerful than statins alone. New research from the University of New Mexico and the National Institutes of Health reports that this new cholesterol-lowering vaccine reduced LDL cholesterol dramatically in mice and macaques, suggesting its potential efficacy in humans. Findings were published in the journal Vaccine. 

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The new vaccine can be an alternative to statins, by targeting a protein called PCSK9 that controls blood cholesterol levels. People with a mutation in the protein often suffer from increased risk of heart disease whereas those who do not produce the protein have a reduced risk. The vaccine can target the protein and stop it from functioning, thus lowering the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

The vaccine was first tested in mice, which resulted in a reduction of LDL cholesterol. Researchers then tested the vaccine in a small group of macaques along with statins, which led to a significant reduction in cholesterol.  

“Statins are still the most commonly prescribed medication for cholesterol. Although they are effective in many people, they do have side effects and don’t work for everyone,” said Dr. Alan Remaley, one of the authors of the study from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health. “The results of our vaccine were very striking, and suggest it could be a powerful new treatment for high cholesterol.”

Study investigators plan to broaden their studies in macaques.

More information on the study can be found here.