Penn study finds plaque production in blood vessels is reduced more than 80 percent
A combination of the anti-oxidant Vitamin E and a cox inhibitor such as aspirin significantly delays the development of atherosclerosis in mice even when their cholesterol levels remain high, according to research by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
In the study, the production of plaque in the blood vessels of the mice was lowered more than 80 percent, said Domenico Pratico, MD, research assistant professor in Penn's Department of Pharmacology and the lead investigator in the research. The findings are published this week in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.
"We think this is a therapy regimen suitable for clinical trials," Pratico said. "The implication is that if you combine an antioxidant with even a low dose of aspirin, you might be able to obtain primary prevention of atherosclerosis without reducing cholesterol. This is something that might be used by individuals who cannot take cholesterol-reducing medication, and it would be a very inexpensive way to prevent such a deadly disease."
Pratico and his colleagues used a group of mice that had been genetically engineered to produce high cholesterol and atherosclerotic lesions similar to human plaques, in a series of studies that examined how the mammals' cardiovascular systems would respond to Vitamin E and aspirin or similar drugs when they developed the disease.
The first test group was administered a daily dose of Vitamin E that would have equaled 800 units in human subjects. "We found that Vitamin E reduced oxidative stress, which is known to be increased in atherosclerosis, to the point that it was suppressed in the mice," Pratico said. "It also reduced atherosclerosis by 65 percent. And this was accomplished without lowering the cholesterol levels."