SCIENTISTS HAVE developed an anti-addiction vaccine that could help smokers to give up cigarettes and cocaine users to kick their habit, researchers told the Science Festival at Salford University yesterday.
The vaccine has already passed safety trials on patients, and doctors are planning more detailed tests later this month to see how good it is at overcoming drug addiction.
Campbell Bunce, a scientist at the Cambridge biotechnology company Xenova, said the vaccine worked by preventing nicotine or cocaine from entering the brain where they triggered further cravings.
The vaccine stimulates the body's immune defences to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine or cocaine in a person's bloodstream, thereby preventing the much larger molecular complex from crossing the vital membrane that separates the bloodstream from the brain.
"The whole process of getting nicotine and cocaine into the brain is the key to the reinforcement of the drug-taking habit," Dr Bunce told the British Association for the Advancement of Science's annual festival. "So if we can reduce or prevent the entry of nicotine or cocaine into the brain through these antibodies then we'll reduce the desire of the addicts to take their substance of abuse," he said.
"Exclusion from the brain will reduce or prevent the feeling of euphoria which normally reinforces the drug-taking habit. A reduction or absence of this trigger to smoke another cigarette, for example, should have an impact on overall behaviour resulting in a reduced desire to smoke.
"If smokers who have given up find themselves at a party, hopefully the presence of antibodies will prevent the usual hit they experience when they smoke and the desire to have another cigarette will be significantly blunted," he said. …