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Vaccine Protects Mice From Cocaine's Effects, Study Finds
Date:1/5/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- New animal research suggests that cocaine addiction might be treatable with a vaccine that has been engineered from pieces of the common cold virus in combination with a cocaine-like substance that mimics cocaine's molecular composition.

In mice, the vaccine appears to provoke an effective and long-lasting antibody immune response, attacking cocaine molecules and keeping them from reaching the brain where they would normally trigger the drug's classic hyperactive response.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, is published in the Jan. 4 online edition of Molecular Therapy.

If successful in people, the vaccine would be the first of its kind and could offer cocaine addicts -- and perhaps even nicotine, heroin and opiate addicts as well -- a simple way to kick their habit, according to study author Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and his colleagues.

To date, however, the vaccine has not been tested in humans and is not approved for therapeutic use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Crystal nonetheless expressed enthusiasm for the vaccine's potential.

"Our very dramatic data shows that we can protect mice against the effects of cocaine, and we think this approach could be very promising in fighting addiction in humans," he said in a Weill Cornell news release.

As a first step, the study authors fashioned the vaccine around an infectious agent: namely, specific parts of the adenovirus (a common cold virus) that pose no risk in terms of causing sickness. This ensured that the vaccine would elicit an immune response.

Then the team attached the cold virus agent to a chemical that is structurally similar to cocaine.

The result: When injected into mice, the vaccine prompted their immune system
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