Gum, patches, inhalers and those pseudo electronic cigarettes…a smoker certainly isn't without options if he or she needs help quitting. But ask anyone trying to shake his habit and you're likely to hear this: Nothing satisfies the cravings more than the real thing.
Bearing that in mind, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College developed a vaccine that addresses the craving. The vaccine could prevent those who've yet to try cigarettes from ever lighting up.
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The vaccine makes the recipient's kidney pump out antibodies that sweep the bloodstream of nicotine, thus cutting off the addictive rush before it ever reaches the brain.
The research team used the genetic sequence of an engineered nicotine antibody and piggy-backed it onto an adeno-associated virus (AAV), a virus designed to be harmless. Also included was genetic information for the vaccine to go to liver cells called hepatocytes. Once inside the nucleus of the hepatocytes, the antibody's genetic sequence caused the cells to emit more antibodies that neutralized nicotine in the bloodstream.
So far the vaccine has only been tested on mice, but the results were promising. Studies showed that the vaccine continuously produced high levels of the antibody.
Ronald G. Crystal, the study's lead investigator, compared the vaccine to one of the most famous video games of all time.
"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 Weill Cornell press release. "Our vaccine allows the body to make its own monoclonal antibodies against nicotine, and in that way, develop a workable immunity."
Crystal and his team plan to test the vaccine on rats and then primates before testing it on humans.