Experimental Nicotine Vaccine Shows Promise
If only you could just get a single shot and you’d be cured of your nicotine addiction forever…
Nicotine vaccines aren’t exactly new, but previous versions haven’t worked all that well and when they did work their effects wore off rather quickly.
But now things are moving in the right direction.
Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York say they’ve developed a novel nicotine vaccine that seems to work very well (it blocks more than 80% of nicotine from reaching the brain) and importantly, it seems to last for a lifetime (at least in mice.)
What’s Different with This Version?
Using a harmless virus as a delivery mechanism the researchers injected the vaccine into the liver. The vaccine carried coded genetic messaging into the cells of the liver, causing the liver cells to start producing nicotine antibodies.
Previous vaccines versions have introduced antibodies directly into the bloodstream and these types of vaccines have demonstrated very short lived efficacy (days or weeks only.)
Since this vaccine causes the body to start producing its own antibodies there is no need for frequent boosters – in theory (and this is supported by animal testing) the vaccine should last for a lifetime.
How Well Did It Work?
- The researchers say that mice given the nicotine vaccine showed no behavioral response after an administration of nicotine – as if the nicotine was not reaching the brain.
- Mice not given the vaccine, however, responded to nicotine administration with lowered activity levels and a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Antibody levels among mice given the vaccine remained high over the course of 18 weeks of experimental testing.
Although a nicotine vaccine won’t eliminate a person’s cravings over the short term, it will make it impossible to satisfy a nicotine craving and so there would be very little motivation to continue with smoking.
The results are promising but although a lot of work still needs doing before human testing could begin in a few years, lead study author Dr. Ronald G. Crystal said that the results of this study show the promise of vaccines, and that, “as far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect."
The full study results are published in Science Translational Medicine.
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