Medicine: Vaccine hope for fighting heart disease

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A vaccine has been developed to block the transformation of "good" cholesterol into the "bad" version that leads to heart disease, it was reported today.

The vaccine has been shown to reduce fatty deposits on artery walls in rabbits, and if it proves equally effective in humans it could provide a safer and cheaper way of fighting heart disease than conventional cholesterol- lowering drugs.

Cholesterol travels in the bloodstream in compounds called high-density lipoproteins (HDL) or low-density and very-low-density lipoproteins (LDL and VLDL). HDL, carries cholesterol molecules away from body tissues for disposal and is associated with a low risk of heart disease. But LDL and VLDL, which carry cholesterol to the body tissues, can form fatty deposits along the artery walls, leading to blockages and heart attacks. The research has focused on neutralising an enzyme that converts HDL cholesterol to LDL and VLDL.

The research, reported in New Scientist magazine, is being carried out by T Cell Sciences, a biotechnology company in Needham, Massachusetts, USA.