JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The same technology used to help Pfizer and Moderna develop their COVID-19 vaccines could prevent fatal heart attacks, according to doctors at the Jacksonville Clinical Research Center.
The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use bioengineered ribonucleic acid to trick people’s bodies into fighting the virus. Researchers at the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research say they have now learned to use the same technology to prevent the production of a protein linked to fatal heart attacks.
Doctors refer to lipoprotein (a), also known as Lp (a), as the evil twin of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), commonly known as bad cholesterol. Lp (a) has an extra protein coil that sinks into the wall of the arteries, causing blood clots and inflammation. This increases the chances of developing cardiovascular disease and suffering a fatal heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Michal Koren is a cardiologist and director of research at the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research. His research in bioengineered ribonucleic acid helped Pfizer and Moderna develop their COVID-19 vaccines. He says that the same technology seems to work against Lp (a).
“When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, we are using RNA messages to enhance the signal to expose the immune system to the spike protein. When we deal with cholesterol problems, we use RNA technology to block messages so that our bodies don’t make that bad chemical, ”Koren said.
Koren says that people who have high levels of Lp (a) may not know they have it because it is not routinely tested. People who have had heart attacks or strokes in their 30s and 40s tend to have higher levels of Lp (a). Very high levels of Lp (a) combined with other cholesterol levels have been found in much younger patients. Koren says that this protein is typically hereditary.
“Half of the family members of an index case can also have this problem, so it is important to understand the genetic relationships of people within a family, particularly if someone has had a heart attack or stroke at an age early, “Koren said. .
The RNA treatment currently being investigated involves an injection much like the COVID-19 vaccine. If the treatment is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, people with high levels of Lp (a) will no longer have to undergo plasmapheresis, a process that filters the blood much like a dialysis machine that filters the kidneys. .
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