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Vaccine Successful at Lowering ‘Bad’ Cholesterol, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 11, 2015 09:35 AM EST

A vaccine could potentially be another form of treatment for patients with high cholesterol.

According to a new study, conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of New Mexico, a vaccine was effective at reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is also known as the "bad" cholesterol, in animals.

The vaccine, which was tested on rats and macaques, works by targeting a specific protein known as the PCSK9. This protein is responsible for managing cholesterol levels in the blood. The researchers noted that even though they did not test the vaccine in humans, it was more effective at reducing the macaques' LDL cholesterol than statins were. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that can have serious side effects.

"One of the most exiting things about this new vaccine is it seems to be much more effective than statins alone," said study author Dr. Bryce Chackerian from the University, reported in the press release.

Study author Dr. Alan Remaley of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), NIH added, "Statins are still the most commonly prescribed medication for cholesterol. Although they are effective in many people, do have side effects and don't work for everyone. The results of our vaccine were very striking, and suggest it could be a powerful new treatment for high cholesterol."

Lowering LDL cholesterol is vital to good heart health because this type of cholesterol clogs arteries, which can then lead to heart disease and an increased risk of stroke. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 73 million Americans have high LDL cholesterol. The best way to reduce LDL cholesterol is through a healthy diet, exercise and often times, statins.

The study was published in the journal, Vaccine.

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