Vaccine Could Block Addictive Effects Of Nicotine

A vaccine that enters the human body like a Trojan horse could block the addictive effects of nicotine and help patients quit smoking easier, scientists unveiled this week.

The vaccine uses the shell of a harmless virus that enters the body with genetic instructions for making an antibody against nicotine, WebMD reported. When the virus infects cells, the body creates a protein that blocks the biological effects of nicotine, researchers said.

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

The study, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, found that a single dose of the vaccine protected mice against nicotine addiction for the rest of their lives, Fox News reported.

It takes between six and 10 seconds for nicotine to travel the bloodstream and reach the brain, Crystal reported, and the vaccine can prevent the pleasurable feelings created by nicotine.

“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,” he said in a written statement.

Weill Cornell researchers participated in a similar study to prevent the high people get from cocaine in another effort to reduce addictions. Similar studies have also been attempted with nicotine, but in previous efforts antibodies were injected directly into the blood rather than being connected to fake viruses. In the previous attempts, the antibodies were flushed out of the body within a few weeks and the vaccine proved ineffective, WebMD reported.