Discovery of cardiovascular disease antibodies may lead to
6 August 2008
Low levels of naturally occurring antibodies may represent an
increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke
in men. This discovery, published in the journal Atherosclerosis,
has now led to attempts to develop an immunization against
Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is an inflammatory
disease in which the walls of the blood vessels are thickened and become
less elastic. It can cause blood clots and other cardiovascular
It is not known precisely what causes atherosclerosis, but the immune
system probably plays an important role. Scientists suspect that various
oxidised forms of what is known as bad cholesterol, LDL (low-density
lipoprotein), contribute to the development of the disease.
A research team from Karolinska Institutet, in co-operation with Lund
University, in Sweden, has now shown that a particular type of naturally
occurring antibodies, anti-PC, which are targeted against the lipid
portion of the LDL molecule, play an important role in the development
of cardiovascular disease. The findings show that individuals who have
low levels of anti-PC are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The risk is particularly high in men who develop stroke, with an almost
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 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
Johan Frostegård at Karolinska Institutet.
1. Beatrice Sjöberg, Jun Su, Ingrid Dahlbom, Hans Grönlund, Max
Wikström, Bo Hedblad, Göran Berglund, Ulf de Faire and Johan Frostegård.
Low levels of IgM antibodies against phosphorylcholine — a potential
risk marker for ischemic stroke in men. Atherosclerosis 2008, in
press, accepted manuscript, available online.
2. CVDIMMUNE project: