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Quit smoking with a shot? New vaccine might cure addiction

Published time: June 28, 2012 18:19
Edited time: June 28, 2012 22:19
Scientists think they are on the right track to treating nicotine addiction

Scientists think they are on the right track to treating nicotine addiction

Scientists are saying they could be closer to curing cigarette addiction than ever before: researchers at a New York lab have developed a vaccine that they think curbs the need for a fix and so far their tests are being considered a success.

Research is still in its early stages at a Weill Cornell Medical College lab, but so far scientists think they are on the right track to treating nicotine addiction. If their tests continue to return positive results, the doctors behind the development say they might be able to eliminate addiction, and all with just a simple vaccine.

By injecting humans with a harmless virus that modifies liver cells, scientists are able to change the body’s chemistry so that it is tricked into generating a steady stream of nicotine antibodies. From there, nicotine fixes could be nixed immediately as the antibodies seek to steer the body away from wanting another drag of a cigarette.

“The antibody is like a little Pac-Man floating around in the blood, and it grabs onto the nicotine and prevents it from reaching the brain, so there’s no reward,” Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell, says in a statement.

"As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pac-Man-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect," Dr. Crystal adds.

So far scientists have tested the vaccination on only mice, but researchers believe that the results are putting them on the right track to someday save humans from their addictions.

“With a single administration of the vaccine, we converted the liver to make the antibody, and it lasts for the life of the mouse,” Dr. Crystal continues. "While we have only tested mice to date, we are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches," he adds in a report published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Around one-out-of-five Americans currently smoke regularly, despite diseases linked with cigarettes being tied to one-out-of-five of each casualty in the country.