As a heart health consumer advocate, my two favorite activities are exposing fraudulent heart disease cures and, more importantly, shining a light on promising treatments. There continues to be robust research into a number of novel therapies, backed by hard science, that offer hope to all heart disease sufferers.
One such therapy is RNA interference (RNAIi) that offers hope for the really tough cases of high cholesterol that do not respond adequately to currently available treatments like lifestyle modification, supplements, and drugs. RNAi is a gene-altering technique that suppresses the production of proteins manufactured by the targeted genes. In this case, researchers identified proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) as a protein that regulates how the liver removes cholesterol. The more PCSK9 your body produces, the less LDL cholesterol is removed by the liver causing blood levels of cholesterol to rise.
The process involves synthetically producing small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules that target the PCSK9 gene and essentially "turn it off." Preliminary testing in mice bred to express human PCSK9 and in monkeys provided 40% to 60% reductions in plasma cholesterol concentrations with no negative effects on HDL Cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Human genetic studies confirm that natural mutations in the PCSK9 gene decrease LDL cholesterol nearly 30% and as well as decrease the frequency of coronary heart disease up to 88%. This suggests that RNAi therapy is a most promising approach to dealing with even the most severe cholesterol problems. You can find the most recent study online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sometimes even the most promising therapies prove to be a bust. A good example of this is torcetrapib, a Cholesteryl Ester Transfer Protein (CETP) inhibition drug that promised to raise HDL (good cholesterol) by 50% or more in human clinical trials. It was a drug I watched closely and planned to take once is was approved as one of my problems is low HDL. The trials were going well. Torcetrapib did, indeed, raise HDL significantly. Unfortunately, it was ultimately determined that trial participants getting the drug were experiencing cardiac events at a higher rate than those in the placebo group. It is thought that an off-target effect of raising blood pressure is a possible culprit. Another CETP inhibitor named anacetrapib is currently under trial that, so far, does not seem to raise blood pressure. Guess I will have to wait a few more years!
The truth is, even therapies that initially appear to be extremely promising do not always pan out. Fortunately, there are already many ways to effectively prevent and reverse heart disease via natural methods and with the aid of supplements, drugs and other medical therapies. So, keep up the fight. The best is yet to come!