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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific