Vaccine Could Eliminate Cocaine Addiction

Posted on 1/15/2011 by meg

Although there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine on the market to treat addiction, a vaccine that fights against cocaine addiction may not be too far off. “Researchers have produced a lasting anti-cocaine immunity in mice by giving them a safe vaccine that combines bits of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics cocaine.”

According to the lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, this research could pave the way to a simple and effective treatment for cocaine addicts, not to mention the fact that it could lead to the treatment of many other types of addiction, such as nicotine, heroin and other opiates.
“He says the antibody immune response produced in lab mice by the vaccine binds to, and sequesters, cocaine molecules before the drug reached the brains of these animals -- and prevents any cocaine-related hyperactivity. The vaccine effect lasted for at least 13 weeks, the longest time point evaluated.”
Of course, researchers have already attempted such a drug to protect against cocaine addiction. However, Dr. Crystal states this research is the first of its kind to develop a less expensive method requiring fewer infusions, which means it could be ready to test on humans rather quickly.
In this study, a team of researchers -- scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University in Ithaca, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. -- ripped apart an adenovirus, retrieving only the components that elicit an immune response and discarding those that produce sickness. They then hooked the cocaine analog on to these proteins to make the vaccine. "We used the cocaine analog because it is a little more stable than cocaine, and it also elicits better immunity," Dr. Crystal says.
Basically, the vaccine latches onto the components of the adenovirus (i.e. the common cold), a chemical structurally similar to cocaine, which causes an immune response that recognizes cocaine as a virus. It works in the same manner as any other vaccine by creating a natural immunity to a certain agent or virus so that in the future it recognizes that agent as foreign, destroys it, and remembers it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these agents when encountered later. Therefore, when cocaine is consumed antibodies built up by the vaccine will quickly surround the particles preventing them from reaching our brain.

Under the microscope, researchers found that mice that received this vaccine generated a strong immune response and their antibodies quickly engulfed the cocaine particles. In addition, behaviorally, the mice treated with the vaccine were far less hyperactive when given cocaine than those that were not vaccinated regardless of the dosage.

Evidently, more research and human testing will be required to really prove the value of this vaccine, but at present, researchers believe that the vaccine will work well for those already addicted to cocaine. So, if it is as effective as researchers say then a cure for cocaine addiction could be on the horizon.

Vaccine Blocks Cocaine High in Mice: Approach Could Also Stop Addiction to Other Drugs, Including Heroin and Nicotine


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