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New Nicotine Vaccine May Prevent Addiction

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US today and a huge part of the issue is how difficult an addiction to nicotine can be to overcome. Studies show that as many as 80 percent of individuals who attempt to quit smoking using an FDA approved method will relapse. Many experts claim this dismal success rate with medical interventions is due to the fact that past medications only had a minor impact on preventing nicotine from making its way to targets in the brain.

In order to increase the effectiveness of drug therapy for smoking cessation, scientists tried to develop a vaccine to combat the problem. These vaccines aimed to inject antibodies into an individual that would intercept nicotine in the bloodstream before it could make it to the brain. This medical technology could be used in two ways:

  • For smokers who are trying to quit
  • For anyone who wants to avoid the possibility of developing an addiction in the future

The vaccinations for nicotine that were produced in the past simply were not been able to pick up enough of the drug out of the bloodstream.

Genetics May Help Design an Effective Nicotine Vaccine

Unlike a typical vaccination, the new concept for smoking, conceived by the a research team at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, does not contain a live virus, since the basis for addiction is not a germ or microbe the body must destroy. Instead, the scientists have come up with a different approach using genetic technology. The researchers, using mice, injected a gene that produces antibodies for the chemical nicotine. The genetic material is assimilated into the animal’s liver, where once active, it starts to create antibodies. The free floating antibodies intercept any nicotine moving through the system before it can have an impact on the brain. Further research is needed, but so far the scientists theorize because of the vaccine’s genetic basis only one injection would be needed for life.

Beginning Phases of Genetic Nicotine Vaccine were Found to be Successful

After giving the vaccine to mice, the research team found a 47 percent decline in nicotine levels in the bloodstream when compared to others who had not received any intervention. They believe this first experiment proved the theory a success thus far, but admit far more research needs to be completed before a genetically based nicotine vaccine will be used in humans.

What do you think of manipulating genetics in order to help someone quit smoking? Tell us your opinion below.

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