A team of scientists is3 getting positive results from experimentation with a vaccine that leads to a reduction in LDL cholesterol in mice and macaques.

According to a recent piece published in the journal ScienceDirect, subject animals received a vaccine of bacteriophages (“VLPs:” Virus-Like Particles) designed to target PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9), an enzyme that binds to LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) in the blood, blocking the liver’s ability to remove LDL from the body.

WebMD describes LDL as the “bad cholesterol.” Collecting in in the walls of blood vessels, an accumulation of LDL can cause blockages, and create blood clots that can lead to heart attacks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 73 million adults in the United States have high LDL counts, and that people with “high total cholesterol have approximately twice the risk for heart disease as people with ideal levels.”

However, people whose bodies don’t produce the enzyme understandably have a reduced risk—with no PCSK9 to bind and hold LDL, the liver is free to get the cholesterol out and gone. The concept of the vaccine is to stop the PCSK9 enzyme from functioning in patients who have LDL-related health concerns.

Using both mice and macaques as subjects, scientists from the University of New Mexico and National Institutes of Health applied a vaccine of VLPs featuring a PCSK9-derived antigen intended to elicit an immune system response — which was “associated with significant reductions in pro-atherogenic plasma lipids and lipoproteins.”

Overall, the vaccination was considered responsible for a notable reduction in phospholipids, triglycerides, and total cholesterol in the test animals. The study summary concluded with:

“If successful, this approach could obviously have a major impact on human health worldwide.”