A new vaccine shows promise in lowering the body's bad cholesterol. Researchers suggest that the vaccine might be more effective in preventing high cholesterol levels than statins alone.
The vaccine specifically targets the protein PCSK9 which helps the body break down receptors that cholesterol binds to once it's eliminated from the body. This protein regulates the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two new PCSK9-inhibitor drugs namely alirocumab and evolocumab. These drugs are more effective than statins but are quite pricey. Though statins are still widely prescribed, they do not work for everyone.
In the study published in the journal Vaccine, researchers from the University of New Mexico and the National Institutes of health in the United States developed the vaccine which dramatically lowered low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in mice and macaques monkeys.
Lipoproteins are molecules that carry cholesterol in the blood. Since cholesterol can't be dissolved in blood, lipoproteins help in the transport of cholesterol in the body. The two types of cholesterol carriers are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
So what is the difference between good and bad cholesterol in the body? LDL is dubbed as the "bad cholesterol" because it contributes to plaques that attach to the walls of the arteries. When there is more cholesterol than what the body needs, they are left circulating in the blood.
These molecules gradually deposit around the walls of arteries, narrowing the passageway of blood. Such deposits can contribute to atherosclerosis and increased risk of cardiovascular problems, specifically coronary artery disease.
On the other hand, HDL is known as the "good cholesterol" because it targets the LDLs attached to the walls of the arteries. Known as cholesterol scavengers, they pick up circulating LDLs and those attached to arterial walls and bring them to the liver to be broken down.
When there is an increased level of HDL in the body, LDL levels are lowered. According to experts, HDL should be at least 60 mg/dL and above. HDL levels can be increased by lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, losing weight, engaging in exercise, limiting alcohol intake and choosing healthier fats are some measures that can promote higher HDL levels.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends having regular cholesterol monitoring for adults. Tthose who are 20 years old and above, can undergo a blood test every five years. However, those who are at higher risk should have themselves tested more often.