Anti-cocaine vaccine shows promise in mice

A new vaccine shows promise for producing immunity to cocaine’s highly addictive effects. The study – in mice – is published online in Molecular Therapy, one of the Nature journals.

Cocaine is a powerful addictive stimulant that is snorted, smoked or injected. When cocaine enters the central nervous system it produces a sense of euphoria, pleasure and increased energy in the user. It also can cause dangerous increases in blood pressure and heart rate. In 2008, 5.3 million Americans age 12 and older had abused cocaine in any form and 1.1 million had abused crack at least once in the year prior to being surveyed, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Cocaine is an addictive drug with no therapy,” said lead study investigator Dr. Ronald Crystal, who called the findings “very promising.”

“One strategy is to treat the addiction using a vaccine against the addictive molecule,” said Crystal, chairman of genetic medicine at Weil Cornell Medical College. His research team created a vaccine produced by combining an inactive common-cold virus with a chemical that imitates cocaine.

The vaccine was able to trigger a robust immune response in the vaccinated mice, producing antibodies that attached themselves to the cocaine molecules and prevented them from passing through the blood-brain barrier, where cocaine acts on the central nervous system. When the vaccinated mice were then injected with cocaine, they showed no reaction to the drug. In contrast, Crystal explained, the control mice, who did not receive the vaccine “went crazy” and became highly active and agitated when injected with cocaine.

Read the full article at CNN.com.

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