London: The easily available flu vaccines may hold the key to developing a vaccine against heart diseases too, researchers have found.
Flu vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that switch on certain processes in cells which lead to the production of molecules that protect the heart, the findings showed.
"Even though the protective effect of the flu vaccine against heart disease has been known for some time, there is very little research out there looking at what causes it," said lead author of the study Veljko Veljkovic from the University of Belgrade in Serbia.
"Our proposed mechanism could potentially be harnessed in a vaccine against heart disease, and we plan to investigate this further," Veljkovic added.
Previous clinical findings show that people that receive the seasonal flu vaccine also benefit from its protective effect against heart disease; the risk of having a heart attack in the year following vaccination is 50 percent lower than people who did not receive the vaccination.
The exact mechanism underlying this protective effect remained unknown.
The researchers identified a protein called the bradykinin 2 receptor (BKB2R), which is involved in cellular processes that protect the heart.
Some of the antibodies the body produces after flu vaccination switch this protein on, thereby protecting against heart disease.
The researchers analysed 14 flu viruses used in vaccines, and identified four that could be investigated for use in potential heart disease vaccines.
The study appeared in the journal Vaccine.