Scientists with one of the largest global pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca, have developed what could be a groundbreaking discovery in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. In an article published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers explained the experimental antibody drug, named MEDI5884, showed promising results in lowering bad cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), while simultaneously boosting good cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs).
For decades, scientists and medical professionals alike have agreed that lowering certain ‘bad’ cholesterols such as LDLs, which has been linked to numerous cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease and an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Most medicines available to date that are aimed at lowering LDL levels—Atorvastatin (Lipitor) and Rosuvastatin (Crestor)—do so by slowing down the production of LDL, but can also slightly decrease the levels of HDL in the body.
The challenge that scientists at AstraZeneca set forth to tackle was to find a medication that not only lowered LDL levels but also raised the levels of HDL. Currently, medications such as statins, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for high LDL, can significantly decrease LDL levels, but can also lower HDL levels. Currently, there is no medication available that is known to significantly decrease LDL, while simultaneously showing a significant increase in HDL levels.
MEDI5884 is currently in phase two of its clinical trials. Scientists first tested the experimental drug on monkeys, before moving on to limited human trials. In tests conducted on monkeys, the drug was able to neutralize an enzyme known as endothelial lipase, which has long been linked to coronary heart disease and was done so by increasing the level of HDL cholesterol. MEDI5884 was also able to double the level of HDL in monkeys in as little as two weeks, with no significant side effects observed.
Once scientists were satisfied with the results of their testing of monkeys, they moved on to a small group of human volunteers. When tested, the drug was able to increase the levels of HDL in humans, although not as much as was observed in the group of monkeys. The drug also slightly increased the levels of LDL in human subjects.
After seeing an increase in LDL levels, scientists moved back to testing on monkeys to try and solve the problem. After numerous tests, they found that monkeys that were also given what is known as a PCSK9 inhibitor, a type of cholesterol medication used for lowering cholesterol in the blood, had both increased and decreased levels of HDL and LDL respectively.
The group of researchers concluded that the two, MEDI5884 and PCSK9 inhibitors, used in conjunction could lead to a means for maintaining and controlling healthy levels of cholesterol in individuals with cardiovascular difficulties, and could be a groundbreaking tool in the ongoing fight against heart disease.