Safe vaccine protects mice against effects of cocaine

October 18, 2015

In this study, a team of researchers ?? scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University in Ithaca, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. ?? ripped apart an adenovirus, retrieving only the components that elicit an immune response and discarding those that produce sickness. They then hooked the cocaine analog on to these proteins to make the vaccine. "We used the cocaine analog because it is a little more stable than cocaine, and it also elicits better immunity," Dr. Crystal says.

The researchers then injected billions of these viral concoctions into "garden variety" laboratory mice (mice that are not genetically engineered). They found a strong immune response was generated against the vaccine, and that these antibodies, when put in test tubes, gobbled up cocaine.

They then tested the vaccine's effect on behavior, and found that mice that received the vaccine before cocaine were much less hyperactive while on the drug than mice that were not vaccinated. The effect was even seen in mice that received large, repetitive doses of cocaine. Proportionally, the cocaine doses reflected amounts that humans might use.

The vaccine needs to be tested in humans, of course, says Dr. Crystal, but he predicts that if it works, it will function best in people who are already addicted to cocaine and who are trying to stop using the drug. "The vaccine may help them kick the habit because if they use cocaine, an immune response will destroy the drug before it reaches the brain's pleasure center."

SOURCE Weill Cornell Medical College