Vaccine triggers attack on nicotine in mice

An experimental vaccine could smother a smoker's addiction to nicotine. Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College developed and successfully tested in mice a vaccine to treat such dependence, according to a News Medical article. The vaccine uses the liver to produce antibodies that consume nicotine as it enters the bloodstream, thus preventing the chemical from tapping into the brain or heart.

The antibody shielded the brain from systemically administered nicotine, reducing brain nicotine concentrations to 15% of those in untreated mice, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine. The amount of nicotine sequestered in the serum of vector-treated mice was more than 7 times greater than that in untreated mice, the study says.

"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," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell, told News Medical. "Our vaccine allows the body to make its own monoclonal antibodies against nicotine, and in that way, develop a workable immunity."

Current strategies used to help smokers drop the habit show limited success due to the addictive properties of nicotine in cigarette smoke. But researchers hypothesized that a single administration of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer vector expressing high levels of an anti-nicotine antibody would persistently prevent nicotine from reaching its receptors in the brain, according to the study.

- read the News Medical story
- see the Science Translational Medicine study