Vaccine Against Effects Of Cocaine Nearly Ready For Clinical Trials

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have developed a second-generation, long-lived cocaine immunoconjugate that blocks cocaine passage into the brain of rats.
The new immunoconjugate displays two amide groups in the stereochemical configuration found in the cocaine framework, so that antibody affinity to cocaine is optimized, Dr. Janda and associates report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Rats were immunized with the vaccine and challenged with systemic cocaine.  Compared with unimmunized controls, locomotor activity was significantly reduced, as were stereotypic patterns of behavior, such as sniffing and rearing.  Effects were sustained throughout the 12 days of the study.
“We have been able to tap into the immune system to immobilize antibodies to recognize cocaine as foreign and remove it from the body,” Dr. Janda said.  “The current vaccine provides a much longer lasting effect than our previous vaccines, suggesting that boosting requirements would be minimal and the antibody circulation time would be increased.”
Dr. Janda added that the vaccine would be of most use in addicts who are motivated to stop using cocaine.  “Typically an addict will relapse several times before he or she will ‘kick’ the drug,” he said.  “We believe the vaccine will protect addicts at weak moments when they have the urge to get high.  If we can prevent the high we can prevent relapse and this would speed the process of kicking the addiction.”

(Source: Proc National Academy of Science, USA 2001;98:1988-1992.)


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