In the news: Nicotine Vaccine Developed
Researchers, led by Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of the department of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, are working on a nicotine vaccine that will help remove the pleasure and addictiveness of smoking. The vaccine develops nicotine antibodies that absorb nicotine in the bloodstream and prevents them from reaching vital organs like the brain and liver. The vaccine is not presented in the body as purely nicotine, the scientists have created a “cold-liked” virus that seemingly attacks the liver and in response the body creates antibodies against it as it would any other virus.
The key findings in the research come through the continued production of antibodies produced weeks after receiving the vaccine. They also showed that when vaccinated mice were injected with nicotine, the antibodies in their blood bound to it and prevented it from getting to the brain. Compared with mice treated with placebo, those that got the vaccine had less nicotine in their blood and just a fraction — 15% — of the chemical in their brains.
So far the vaccine has been tested on a set of non-nicotine addicted mice to see how they’d react when presented with nicotine. The mice who had been vaccinated were not affected by nicotine and the mice who had received a placebo were affected – becoming more relaxed with their heart rates and blood pressures dropping. The next step would be to vaccinate nicotine addicted mice to see if it craves their need to press on the lever to administer more nicotine. If this vaccine does provide positive results in curving nicotine cravings in mice then we should expect it to be available for human testing in the future. This is not the first time we’ve heard of a solution to nicotine addiction – there are many anti-smoking drugs, gums, and patches available. This is, however, another approach – gene therapy which is used to develop drugs that combat chronic illnesses such as HIV, certain cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
The idea would be for people who want to stop smoking, we would immunize them and they now have antibodies floating around in their blood on a permanent basis against nicotine,” says Crystal, whose study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. “So should they smoke, or smell someone else smoking, they would not get any positive reinforcing aspects of smoking because the nicotine was not reaching their brain.
Although it seems like we have a long way to go before we see this vaccine on the market it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I really hope this vaccine will work and help the millions of cigarette smokers who wish to quit but are having a hard time.