A simple injection could reverse the clogging of arteries responsible for most heart attacks and strokes. Picture: Pexels.com

A simple injection could reverse the clogging of arteries responsible for most heart attacks and strokes.

Scientists have made a major breakthrough in what is considered one of the holy grails of cardiovascular disease.

The twice-weekly jabs were found to reduce levels of fatty substances, called plaques, by as much as 11 %  in just eight weeks.

It could one day replace traditional medications – such as statins – which slow down but do not undo the potentially deadly build up of cholesterol.

Six out of ten adults in England have raised cholesterol levels, according to figures from the charity Heart UK, with obesity, smoking and a lack of exercise all common causes.

High cholesterol can cause the arteries to become clogged with fatty substances which over time, narrow the vessels, restricting blood flow to the heart.

Drugs such as statins are commonly prescribed to those who are suffering with hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a leading cause of heart disease. In the most severe cases, patients often end up in need of invasive treatments including heart bypass surgery or having stents fitted to enable blood and oxygen to reach the heart.

But none of these treatments cure the deadly disease, known as atherosclerosis.

Scientists from Northwestern University in Chicago tested the new treatment on mice over a period of two months.

It works by injecting tiny fibres with cholesterol-dissolving particles that helped to remove the build-up of fatty deposits from the artery walls.

Mice were genetically modified to rapidly develop atherosclerosis and were then fed high-fat diets for 14 weeks.

They were then given the peptide-based nanofibres which were developed by researchers in the laboratory.

After eight weeks of treatment, the plaque in the arteries of the male mice was reduced by 11 %  and in the female mice by 9 % .

Dr Neel Mansukhani, who led the study, presented the findings at an American Heart Association conference.

‘Our aim was to develop a non-invasive, non-surgical, novel therapy to halt and reverse the disease by actually targeting the vessel wall with peptide-based nanofibres developed in the laboratory,’ he said.

‘The results demonstrate that a novel targeted nanofibre binds specifically to atherosclerotic lesions and reduces plaque burden after a short treatment duration.’