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Atherosclerosis: Three steps away from a vaccine

Overcoming a bottleneck will make the vaccine ready for clinical trials, say scientists on the first day of the Annual EVGN Meeting

The Fourth Annual Meeting of the European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN,, Network of excellence on cardiovascular disease, opened yesterday, September 17th, in the prestigious venue of the University of Bristol (UK), that made available to the event two historical buildings: the Wills Memorial Building, inaugurated by King George V and Queen Mary, and the Merchant Venturers Building.

Run jointly with the European Vascular Biology Organization (EVBO) and the British Atherosclerosis Society and articulated over a three day period (September 17-20), the EVGN Meeting will take place in parallel with the 4th European Meeting on Vascular Biology and Medicine (EMVBM), gathering more than 400 scientists from all over Europe with representatives from the rest of the world. Cardiologists and diabetes researchers, as well as hematologists, thrombosis scientists, gene therapists and oncologists will alternate their presentations to show new data and debate perspectives on the therapeutic side.

“Once again as we did in 2005 – said the President of EVBO Professor Andrew Newby – the simultaneous presence of renowned scientists with different expertise and competence is a unique chance to confront news and views on controversial aspects of vascular disease, an elusive but deadly disease, and to enhance the productivity and the competitiveness of the European scientific community at large”.

The agenda is more than full: 10 plenary speakers, a selection of 45 oral presentations and almost 200 posters complete a rich and comprehensive programme. And tomorrow, Sept. 19, the Young Investigator Award will be assigned to a young distinguished researcher, with the aim of encouraging his/her investigations in years to come.

The opening Hugh Sinclair lecture that concluded the first day of the Meeting was presented by Professor Goran K. Hansson, from the Karolinska Hospital, Center for Molecular Medicine, who offered an elegant state-of-the-art summary of atherosclerosis, with an eye to the most appealing therapeutic perspective: a vaccine against this immune disease. “The current knowledge of atherosclerosis has markedly changed over the latest years” said Hansson, who is a leading scientists in the immunology field. “Today we know that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease with both a systemic association and a genetic involvement. Inside the plaques there is a strong immune activity, and day after day we learn more and more about the immunopathogenetic mechanisms with the aid of mouse models that mimic the disease in humans. But we are still a few steps away from a human trial”. There are three unresolved issues. We need: to find the proper antigen for immunization (a good candidate is the LDL particle, Low Density Lipoprotein or bad cholesterol); to clarify the mechanism of action (it has to be decided whether the vaccine wants to reduce bad circulating lipoproteins or act upon immune cells that create inflammation in the artery); finally, we have to identify the optimal administration route. “When we overcome these bottlenecks, we will get to the vaccine.”

Today, September 18th, the EVGN scientists will address some of the most critical topics for cardiovascular disease:

• strategies to modulate angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels which is necessary to avoid tissue necrosis after ischemia);

• ways to target atherosclerotic plaques;

• the clinical experience in the acute myocardial infarction

“Most of the convened scientists – commented Professor Newby – are at the fore front of the research. We expect interesting news from this fourth EVGN Meeting. We also want to start proceeding on new therapeutic avenues, to improve scientists’ interactions and encourage young talents”.

The European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN) is the first Network of Excellence on cardiovascular disease funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme "Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health" (Contract Number: LSHM-CT-2003-503254).

The conference is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Laboratoires SERVIER.

Francesca Noceti | alfa
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