Karolinska researchers battle heart disease with antibodies

06 Aug 2008 | News

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Low levels of naturally occurring antibodies known as anti-PC, (for phosphorylcholine) may represent an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in particular causing stroke in men, according to research carried out at Karolinska Institutet, in cooperation with Lund University. This discovery has now led to attempts to develop an immunotherapeutic against cardiovascular disease.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries is an inflammatory disease in which the walls of the blood vessels are thickened and become less elastic, leading to blood clots and other cardiovascular diseases.

The research team has now shown that a particular type of naturally occurring antibody, called anti-PC, which are targeted against the lipid portion of low-density lipoprotein, (LDL, or so-called bad cholesterol), play an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Individuals who have low levels of anti-PC are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and particularly stroke.

This newly discovered risk factor, low levels of anti-PC, is independent of previously known risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood lipids, diabetes and smoking.

“Our findings suggest that anti-PC can be used as a complement to the traditional risk factors to improve diagnosis and treatment. In addition we are currently developing anti-PC as a vaccine for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease,” says Professor Johan Frostegård, who directed the study.

The study is based on data from 349 people who at some time over a 12-year period have suffered a heart attack or stroke, and 693 individuals without symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The research has been carried out under the EU consortium CVDIMMUNE, which is led by Frostegård at Karolinska Institutet.

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