A novel antibody vaccine could be used to treat nicotine addiction, according to a Weill Cornell Medical College report.
Researchers have developed a vaccine that blocks the addictive nicotine chemicals from reaching the brain. The study conducted on a group of mice showed that a single dose of the vaccine is enough to treat nicotine addiction.
During the study, one group of the mice received the vaccine while the others did not. Then both the groups were exposed to some amount of nicotine.
The study found that mice that had received the vaccine had no nicotine effect on their brains and hearts. The other group that had received nicotine and not treated with the vaccine basically "chilled out". They relaxed and their blood pressure and heart activity were lowered - signs that the nicotine had reached the brain and the cardiovascular system.
To know as to how the vaccine blocked the nicotine, the researchers used infrared beams in the animals' cages and found that the vaccine produces antibodies that gobble up nicotine the moment it enters the blood stream, thereby preventing the chemical from reaching the brain and heart.
"As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect," said Dr Ronald G Crystal, professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, in a statement.
"Smoking affects a huge number of people worldwide, and there are many people who would like to quit, but need effective help," he said.
Nearly 20 percent of adult Americans smoke, and it is the 4,000 chemicals within the burning cigarette that cause health problems associated with smoking. Smoking causes diseases that lead to one out of every five deaths in the US.
It is the nicotine in the tobacco that keeps the smoker hooked. The study shows that between 70 and 80 percent of smokers who try to quit light up again within six months.
"They will know if they start smoking again, they will receive no pleasure from it due to the nicotine vaccine, and that can help them kick the habit," said Dr Crystal. "This novel vaccine may offer a much-needed solution."
Previously tested nicotine vaccines did not have much effect because the nicotine antibodies only lasted for a few weeks. The new study has also found that one shot of the novel vaccine is enough to treat nicotine addiction.
"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," said Dr Crystal.
Researchers are planning to test the novel nicotine vaccine on rats, then on primates and later on humans.