Scientists test vaccine to help smokers beat the habit

Scientists have developed an anti-addiction vaccine that could help smokers to give up cigarettes and cocaine users to kick their habit, researchers told the Science Festival at Salford University yesterday.

The vaccine has already passed safety trials on patients, and doctors are planning more detailed tests later this month to see how good it is at overcoming drug addiction.

Campbell Bunce, a scientist at the Cambridge biotechnology company Xenova, said the vaccine worked by preventing nicotine or cocaine from entering the brain where they triggered further cravings.

The vaccine stimulates the body's immune defences to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine or cocaine in a person's bloodstream, thereby preventing the much larger molecular complex from crossing the vital membrane that separates the bloodstream from the brain.

"The whole process of getting nicotine and cocaine into the brain is the key to the reinforcement of the drug-taking habit," Dr Bunce told the British Association for the Advancement of Science's annual festival. "So if we can reduce or prevent the entry of nicotine or cocaine into the brain through these antibodies then we'll reduce the desire of the addicts to take their substance of abuse," he said.

"Exclusion from the brain will reduce or prevent the feeling of euphoria which normally reinforces the drug-taking habit. A reduction or absence of this trigger to smoke another cigarette, for example, should have an impact on overall behaviour resulting in a reduced desire to smoke.

"If smokers who have given up find themselves at a party, hopefully the presence of antibodies will prevent the usual hit they experience when they smoke and the desire to have another cigarette will be significantly blunted," he said.

A vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to attack invading viruses or bacteria, but molecules such as nicotine or cocaine are too small for the antibodies to recognise. The trick is to produce harmless proteins that can bind to nicotine or cocaine to form a larger substance that the immune system's antibodies can identify. This is the principle behind anti-addiction vaccines, Dr Bunce said.

"So far, all these vaccines have proven safe in man and can induce cocaine or nicotine-specific antibodies. The next steps ... is to progress with efficacy trials in humans to establish whether this strategy will work," he said.

Initial trials with Xenova's anti-cocaine vaccine suggest that addicts will benefit from the approach. "There were comments along the lines of they had a reduced feeling of euphoria," Dr Bunce said.

"They are also unlikely to reduce anxiety or help depression that is associated with withdrawal symptoms. We feel antibodies will be most useful in preventing relapse."

* A vaccine against a range of "auto-destruct" diseases such as arthritis, asthma and diabetes has been approved for clinical trials in Britain after a successful series of laboratory tests. Scientists at Bristol University said the vaccine was based on a protein found in diarrhoea bacteria, which seems to calm down auto-immune reactions, when the body's antibodies attack its own tissues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk