Atherosclerosis is a condition that occurs when fats get deposited in the form of plaque in blood vessels. The blood flow to the heart is obstructed as the arteries become thick and stiff. The plaque can burst and lead to blood clot. The risk factors for the condition are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, insulin resistance, and obesity.
The LDL (low density lipoprotein) is a type of fat that gets oxidized into small acidic ‘bags’ called lysosomes in the immune cells of the artery walls. The cysteamine drug has the potential to reverse the damage caused to the arterial walls and can prevent heart problems.
According to David Leake – professor at University of Reading “The potential in this drug to protect against heart attacks and strokes and ultimately save lives superseded our expectations. We hoped it would cause plaques to grow at a slower pace, but we were amazed to find it reversed the process.”
The cysteamine drug accumulates in the lysosomes and stops the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Previous studies have shown that the drug helps to treat a rare lysosomal disease called cystinosis .
The action of the drug was studied using mice, when the mice were injected with the drug atherosclerosis in mice reduced from 32 to 56% and size of the atherosclerotic plaque also reduced. The amount of oxidized fat was reduced by 73% and white blood cell inflammation was reduced by 55%.
“In the UK, every 5 minutes someone is admitted to hospital with a heart attack, and the same is true of stroke. If this drug can show the same promising effects in humans as they did in mice, then it could offer a lifeline to thousands of people in the future” says Professor James Leiper at the British Heart Foundation.
More tests and studies are needed to confirm the action of the cysteamine drug.