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Nicotine vaccine may help smokers quit

Written by: QMI Agency
Jun. 28, 2012

(Fotolia)


It can cure nicotine addiction in mice. Now scientists are hoping their stop-smoking vaccine will work in humans.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York said they have developed a vaccine that turns the liver into a "factory" of antibodies that eat up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream - before it can reach the brain or the heart.

Just one dose worked for a mouse's entire lifetime.

Previous vaccines injected ready-made antibodies into the patient to elicit an immune response; those only last a few weeks and need to be delivered again and again.

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"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," said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal.

The activity level of the experimental mice - the ones that received both nicotine and the vaccine - was unchanged, whereas mice that received nicotine "chilled out" with lower blood pressure and heart activity, leading the investigators to conclude nicotine had reached the brains of the latter group but not of the former.

They plan to try out the vaccine next in rats and then primates. If successful, they said, it can be used to treat smokers and possibly even pre-empt the habit in non-smokers, the way other vaccines are used to prevent disease.

"While we have only tested mice to date, we are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches," Crystal said.

The findings appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

 

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