Revolutionizing Heart Health: Scientists Develop Game-Changing New Cholesterol Vaccine

Heart Vaccine Syringe

A new vaccine developed by The University of New Mexico School of Medicine offers an affordable and effective solution for high cholesterol, targeting LDL cholesterol with potential for widespread global use. This innovative approach, cheaper than existing PCSK9 inhibitors, could significantly impact heart disease prevention worldwide.

A researcher from the University of New Mexico has developed a vaccine designed to reduce cholesterol levels.

Nearly 40% of U.S. adults suffer from high cholesterol, according to the CDC. If left untreated, this condition can result in heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Globally, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for almost 18 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.

A new vaccine developed by researchers at The University of New Mexico School of Medicine could be a game-changer, providing an inexpensive method to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, which creates dangerous plaques that can block blood vessels.

Breakthrough Vaccine Study

In a recent study published in NPJ Vaccines, a team led by Bryce Chackerian, Ph.D., Regents’ Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, reported the vaccines lowered LDL cholesterol almost as effectively as an expensive class of drugs known as PCSK9 inhibitors.

“We are interested in trying to develop another approach that would be less expensive and more broadly applicable, not just in the United States, but also in places that don’t have the resources to afford these very, very expensive therapies,” Chackerian said.

For a condition with such a profound global impact, one would think treatments for high cholesterol levels would be more accessible and affordable. Abinash Achrekar, M.D., MPH, learned firsthand that this is not the case.

Achrekar, a cardiologist, is the vice chair and professor In the UNM Department of Internal Medicine. Not only has he treated countless patients with high cholesterol, he is a patient himself.

“I’m a cardiologist, and I have high cholesterol,” he said. “I was actually diagnosed when I was a young man about the age of 16.”

The Innovative Vaccine Technology

Since then, Achrekar said he has used different treatments, like statins – which close to 200 million people use worldwide – and the PCSK9 monoclonal shot. This is a newer medicine that targets the PCSK9 protein; a molecule made in the liver that circulates through the bloodstream and negatively regulates the metabolism of LDL cholesterol.

Basically, the more PCSK9 your body makes, the higher your LDL cholesterol will be. Achrekar said the twice-monthly injections to block that protein reduce his bad cholesterol by about 60%, but they are expensive and require prior authorization from a primary care doctor or cardiologist.

“They do take some time processing with the insurance companies, but they’re life-saving,” he said. “These medicines have been shown not only to lower cholesterol, but to reduce the chances of heart attack, stroke and dying.”

Chackerian and his colleagues wanted all patients who face that risk to have a treatment option. So, using vaccine platform technology he developed at UNM, Chackerian partnered with researchers across the U.S. to create a new vaccine that specifically targets PCSK9.

“The vaccine is based on a non-infectious virus particle,” he explained. It is just the shell of a virus, and it turns out that we can use that shell of a virus to develop vaccines against all sorts of different things.”

In this case, Chackerian said he stuck tiny pieces of the PCSK9 protein to the surface of these virus particles.

“So, your immune system makes a really strong antibody response against this protein that’s involved in controlling cholesterol levels,” he said. “In the animals that we vaccinated, we see strong reductions in cholesterol levels – up to 30% – and that is going to be correlated with reduced risk of heart disease.”

Potential Global Impact and Accessibility

Over the past 10 years, the vaccine has been tested on mice and monkeys with promising results. Chackerian said the next step is to find funding to move into vaccine manufacturing and clinical trials with humans. That process can take years and several million dollars, but it is worth it to develop a vaccine that is pure, safe, and affordable.

“Given the fact that so many people have high cholesterol levels, it has been estimated that if everybody went on one of these PCSK9 inhibitor therapies, it would bankrupt the health care system,” Chackerian said.

He estimates his vaccine could be cheaper than $100 per dose because it is made with a simple and relatively inexpensive bacteria.

“We’re thinking tens of dollars a dose,” he said, and each dose would remain effective for close to a year. “This is a vaccine that we think can have a global impact. So, not just in the United States, but around the world where heart disease is a significant problem.”

Chackerian said his team continues to work hard on making that impact.

“We hope to have a vaccine in people in the next 10 years,” he said.

Reference: “A virus-like particle-based bivalent PCSK9 vaccine lowers LDL-cholesterol levels in non-human primates” by Alexandra Fowler, Koen K. A. Van Rompay, Maureen Sampson, Javier Leo, Jennifer K. Watanabe, Jodie L. Usachenko, Ramya Immareddy, Debbie M. Lovato, John T. Schiller, Alan T. Remaley and Bryce Chackerian, 28 September 2023, npj Vaccines.
DOI: 10.1038/s41541-023-00743-6

The study was funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health.

4 Comments on "Revolutionizing Heart Health: Scientists Develop Game-Changing New Cholesterol Vaccine"

  1. The word Vaccine is meaningless now.

    It has been watered down and applied to so many things now the word has lost its usefulness.

    • Hottan Hipurtensif | January 19, 2024 at 10:21 am | Reply

      Yeah, this is some kind of theraputic, an immunotherapy treatment. It’s as much a vaccine as any covid-19 vaccine needing another dose every 3 months.

      Cholesterol is a bad word, but it’s actually needed to build the body, among other functions. Teaching the immune system to target a protein the body uses to regulate cholesterol, I feel that’s going to cause some kind of autoimmune issue. The article is interesting, a novel treatment for high cholesterol, and that could help people with severe cholesterol who aren’t candidates for surgical intervention, but it’s not something I’ll consider safe for a decade.

  2. No more mRNA crap.
    I think you’ve killed enough people.

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.