Vaccine May Block the Effect of Nicotine

Posted: June 29, 2012 at 7:11 am

Latest Prevention & Wellness News

Doctors May One Day Harness the Immune System to Help People Quit Smoking

By Brenda Goodman, MA WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 27, 2012 -- Scientists say they've developed a vaccine that may one day protect people against the addictive effects of nicotine -- but for now they have to settle for some success in mice.

The vaccine uses the shell of a harmless virus that, much like the Trojan horse, carries into cells genetic instructions for making an antibody against nicotine. When cells are "infected" by the virus, they get tricked into churning out a protein that blocks nicotine's biological effects.

"It's sort of like having Pac-Man floating around in the blood. [The antibodies] bind to the nicotine and prevent it from reaching its receptors in the brain," says Ronald G. Crystal, MD, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Researchers have tried to vaccinate people against nicotine before -- by directly injecting antibodies into the blood. The problem is that the antibodies disappear after only a few weeks, and the studies ultimately had disappointing results.

This time, researchers say they may have found a way to get the body to keep making more.

In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Crystal and colleagues at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., described how they were able to successfully vaccinate mice against nicotine.

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Vaccine May Block the Effect of Nicotine

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