A vaccine jab capable of preventing heart attacks could be available after promising early research showed the immune system could be directed to lower cholesterol.
Patients have already been enrolled into a Phase I trial to see if the approach, so far tested on mice, would work in humans.
A cholesterol-lowering vaccine could, in future, theoretically provide a more effective and reliable alternative to statin drugs.
The vaccine, known as AT04A, triggered the production of antibodies targeting an enzyme involved in blood cholesterol regulation.
The enzyme, PCSK9, had been shown to impede the clearance of low-density lipoprotein - the ''bad'' form of cholesterol that was to largely blame for blocked arteries - from the blood.
In tests on mice that had been fed an unhealthy Western-style fatty diet, the blood cholesterol was lowered 53 per cent by the vaccine.
Atherosclerotic damage, the build-up of hard fibrous deposits on the walls of arteries, was lowered by 64 per cent and biological markers of blood vessel inflammation by up to 28 per cent compared with unvaccinated mice.
According to commentators, the new results published in the European Heart Journal, opened up the prospect of a yearly vaccine jab to keep cholesterol under control in at-risk patients.
According to Dr Gunther Staffler, chief technology officer at the Austrian biotech company AFFiRis, which developed the vaccine, people who currently took statins, the most commonly-prescribed medicines in the UK, could benefit from a yearly booster jab instead.
''If these findings translate successfully into humans, this could mean that, as the induced antibodies persist for months after a vaccination, we could develop a long-lasting therapy that, after the first vaccination, just needs an annual booster,'' he said, The Independent reported.
''This would result in an effective and more convenient treatment for patients, as well as higher patient compliance.''