Researchers are now looking at a particular kind of drug for shrinking abdominal aortic aneurysms to prevent the need for surgery.

A class of drugs may be on the horizon that actually reduce the size of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

The drugs would be designed to raise HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.

A new study report appears in the March 2013 Atherosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology journal.

Traditionally, the “treatment” for an abdominal aortic aneurysm is that of the so-called watchful waiting: The patient is monitored at regular intervals via imaging to see if the diseased portion of the artery is getting bigger.

When it reaches the critical size (5 cm in diameter), surgical repair is warranted. Though surgery can be quite successful, it has risks and mortality rates.

Furthermore, the “watchful waiting” approach isn’t as benign as it may sound.

Imagine finding out you have a ballooned portion in a major artery that can rupture and kill you within minutes (it need not reach 5 cm to rupture).

To date, no drug exists that’s been proven to shrink an aneurysm.

But researchers at St. George’s, University of London, have discovered that raising HDL cholesterol in mice not only shrunk their pre-existing abdominal aortic aneurysms, but prevented this defect from developing.

The scientists don’t fully understand the mechanism behind why HDL cholesterol shrinks aneurysms, but they do report that the good cholesterol somehow influences activity of cells that comprise the abdominal aorta.

What they know is that HDL alters signals sent between these cells. This reduces the activity of ERK1/2, a protein that’s tied to cell growth.

The researchers see down the road a pharmaceutical means of raising good cholesterol as a preventive route for abdominal aortic aneurysm development in people at high risk for this condition.

However, another application of such a drug is to treat existing abdominal aneurysms to eliminate the need for surgery.

Unfortunately, the report states that much more research is required before drugs replace surgery for treatment.

The researchers hope to begin the next phase of research this year: lab tests with different drugs that can raise HDL cholesterol and replicate the effect on aneurysms that was observed in the mice study.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.