Anti-Cocaine Vaccine May Be Cure For Addicts; How Does It Prevent The Drug From Reaching The Brain?
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have successfully tested an anti-cocaine vaccine that eats up cocaine "like a little Pac-Man."
The vaccine combines parts of the common cold virus with GNE, an agent that mimics cocaine. When injected into non-human primates, the vaccine successfully blocked the dopamine high offered by cocaine.
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"The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-Man before it can reach the brain," said Ronald G Crystal, lead author of the Weill Cornell study.
"We believe this strategy is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States, who are committed to breaking their addiction to the drug. Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect."
Cocaine works by blocking the recycling of dopamine in the brain, bombarding the brain with dopamine, giving a person a "massive flooding of dopamine and that is the feel good part of the cocaine high," according to Dr. Crystal.
But the vaccine makes the body treat the drug as an intruder, leading the body to launch an immune response against the cocaine. The body recognizes the cold virus that's contained in the vaccine, attacking both the cold virus and the GNE, the cocaine impersonator.
"Once immune cells are educated to regard cocaine as the enemy, it produces antibodies, from that moment on, against cocaine the moment the drug enters the body," said Dr. Crystal.
The research was first performed on mice, before being tested on non-human primates. The vaccine was effective in mice for 13 weeks in mice and seven weeks in non-human primates.
The researchers hope to test the vaccine on humans within a year.
"An anti-cocaine vaccination will require booster shots in humans, but we don't know yet how often these booster shots will be needed," said Crystal. "I believe that for those people who desperately want to break their addiction, a series of vaccinations will help."
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