Developing a vaccine against arteriosclerosis
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death across the world. Professor Johan Kuiper of Leiden University carries out research to develop a vaccine for arteriosclerosis, which is the main cause of cardiovascular diseases. With the aid of a European research grant of six million euros he is set to work together with European medical centres and companies to develop and subsequently test the vaccine in a clinical trial.
Arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries is a very complex process and a rather a misleading term: it starts with an inflammation of the artery wall, which causes plaque formation. The artery then slowly clogs up. Gradually the plaque thickens and hardens (calcification) causing the heart to work harder to keep the blood circulating; the plaque can even become detached and cause a heart attack. Many people suffer from the effects of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and related conditions. In Europe, the care for these patients costs around 200 billion euros every year.
Professor Johan Kuiper
How does the vaccine work?
The LDL particle is the main carrier of cholesterol in the blood. After oxidation it becomes an antigen, a substance that causes inflammation in cardiovascular diseases. It comprises the protein apolipoproteine B-100and lipids that can be used in the vaccines.
Kuiper’s department of Biopharmacy of the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research (LACDR) carries out research into the possible therapies for inflammation of the artery wall. In 2006 Kuiper started his research into the various ways in which plaque cells react to the protein that comes from ‘the bad cholesterol’ (LDL) and how this protein could be used for the development of a vaccine. Kuiper wants to disable the inflammation response of the plaque cells, which will then reduce the inflammation, stabilise the arteriosclerosis and hopefully even reduce it.
Will it be coming onto the market?
It is not yet certain if and when the vaccine will be made available. The pre-clinical laboratory studies into the development of this vaccine are now at an advanced stage. Johan Kuiper hopes that people will undergo the first testing of the vaccine within the coming five years. A process of testing and further development may take another 10 years before the vaccine can actually be administered to patients.
Injecting or swallowing?
Once the first tests have been carried out, the researchers will also examine how the vaccine can best be administered to the patient. It will probably be an oral administration, in the form of a fluid, like a cough mixture, for example. It is likely that the vaccine will be given to patients aged between 40 and 50, before most of the symptoms appear.
Collaboration with industry and European partners
Although the research is carried out at Leiden University, there is a close co-operation with European companies and medical centres. They all have unique know-how and expertise in the field of drug research and in transnational studies. The clinical trial is being carried out by the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) at the Bioscience Park Leiden. This grant from the EU will provide an economic incentive for European pharmaceutical companies.
(2 December 2013 - W&N)
Long-term increase in mortality rate after thrombosis (January 2012)
Studying in Leiden