Scientists have developed a vaccine to help nicotine from reaching the brain which in turn, could help people quit smoking and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
Researched studied mice that were given the vaccine and noticed the mice didn’t get the nicotine “high” because the antibody was able to attach to the nicotine before it reached the mouse’s brain. Once attached to the nicotine, the mice didn’t show the behavior or physiological reactions to injections of nicotine.
“If you give nicotine to a mouse, they chill out, like humans. They run around less and their blood pressure drops and heart rate drops. With the vaccine, giving them nicotine is like giving them water; the vaccine stops nicotine from reaching the brain and the mice don’t respond at all,” study researcher Ronald Crystal, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, told LiveScience.
How does this vaccine work? The vaccine is a type of gene therapy. It uses a safe virus as a shuttle to insert a gene into the mouse’s liver cells. The gene codes for an antibody — a protein made by the immune system that labels (and attacks) invaders, like bacteria, viruses and toxins. In the case of the newly studied vaccine, the antibody targets nicotine, reported LiveScience.
After 18 weeks, researchers noticed the mice still had high levels of antibodies which gives hope that this vaccine is a long term solution.
Researchers say this nicotine vaccine could help people quit smoking one day. Smoking kills over 400,000 people a year and about 1,200 on a daily average.
Michael Fingerhood, MD, medical director of the comprehensive care practice at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, who specializes in the treatment of addiction, says that the addiction to smoking a cigarettes goes deeper than just the biological effect of the nicotine. “I think smoking is perhaps the most complicated of addictions because there are other aspects to why people have trouble quitting smoking,” says Fingerhood.
Testing this vaccine on humans is still years away, but it’s still a good step to getting rid of smoking.
‘Body of Knowledge’ segment from CNN takes a look at the challenges of quitting smoking.