New Vaccine Could Help People Addicted to Cocaine

New Vaccine Could Help People Addicted to Cocaine

New research has found that a vaccine can block the effects of cocaine by combining elements of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics cocaine. This could be the first medication to treat cocaine addiction, and could help treat other addictions, such as nicotine and opiates.

Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, lead investigator of the study and chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said that the study shows that the vaccine can protect mice against the effects of cocaine, and could be promising in treating addiction in humans.

He added that the vaccine binds to cocaine molecule before the drug reaches the brain, preventing the effects of cocaine. This effect lasted for at least 13 weeks. Dr. Crystal said that while there have been other attempts to develop vaccine against cocaine, this is the first that likely won’t require multiple infusions that can be costly, and that will move quickly to human trials. He added that there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for addiction treatment.

The vaccine is made up of a chemical that is very structurally similar to cocaine and components of the adenovirus, which is a common cold virus. The immune system is alerted to the virus and learns to view cocaine as an “intruder.” Once the cocaine is recognized, antibodies to the drug are produced and cocaine is prevented from reaching the brain.

Dr. Crystal said that the immune system doesn’t usually identify cocaine as an intruder, so the researchers engineered the response so that it does. For the study, a team of scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University in Ithaca, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found that a strong immune response was generated against the vaccine.

Mice that received the vaccine were much less hyperactive after being given cocaine than those that did not receive the vaccine. This effect was even seen in mice that were given large, repetitive doses of cocaine.

Dr. Crystal said the vaccine needs to be tested in humans, but thinks that it will work best in people who are already addicted to cocaine and are trying to quit. He added that the vaccine may help people quit because if they use the drug, the immune system will destroy it before it reaches the brain.

Source: Science Daily, Vaccine Blocks Cocaine High in Mice: Approach Could Also Stop Addiction to Other Drugs, Including Heroin and Nicotine, January 5, 2011

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