Researchers at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden are working on a new vaccine that could prevent the body from dispatching T cells to help ward off "bad" LDL cholesterol, inadvertently triggering a dangerous swelling of the arteries.
A rising tide of bad cholesterol in the system causes plaque to build up in the arteries which can interrupt the steady flow of blood. That condition triggers the release of T cells, which in turn cause the lining of arteries to swell, creating a potentially lethal constriction in blood flow.
The vaccine homes in on a receptor on LDL cholesterol that the T cells use to latch on to and then destroy. But the jab blocks the target, leaving the T cells with nowhere to go. And the scientists involved in the work say that the work they're doing could lead to a significant reduction in heart disease.
"This treatment significantly reduced atherosclerosis by 65 per cent," according to the Karolinska team.
"Since reactions to LDL can be dangerous, T cells are normally held in check by inhibitory signals," says Professor Göran K Hansson, who led the study. "The body's own control works well as long as the LDL keeps to the blood, liver and lymph glands. But when it accumulates in the artery wall, this inhibition is no longer enough, the T cells are activated and an inflammation arises."