News / Health

New Vaccine Could Fight Nicotine Addiction

Cigarette butts are seen in an ashtray in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012.
Cigarette butts are seen in an ashtray in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012.
Jessica Berman
Cigarette smokers who are having trouble quitting because of nicotine's addictive power may some day be able to receive a novel antibody-producing vaccine to help them kick the habit.  

The average cigarette contains about 4000 different chemicals that - when burned and inhaled - cause the serious health problems associated with smoking. But it is the nicotine in cigarettes that, like other addictive substances, stimulates rewards centers in the brain and hooks smokers to the pleasurable but dangerous routine.

Ronald Crystal, who chairs the department of genetic medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, where researchers are developing a nicotine vaccine, said the idea is to stimulate the smoker's immune system to produce antibodies or immune proteins to destroy the nicotine molecule before it reaches the brain. But Crystal said nicotine antibodies are too small and don't last long enough in the bloodstream for the immune system to mount a sustained attack. So scientists took the DNA - the genetic building blocks - of the nicotine antibodies and used it to genetically modify the liver to continuously produce them.  
                                                               
The result, said Crystal, is a steady stream of antibodies circulating through the smoker's bloodstream, constantly on the lookout for nicotine molecules. Crystal likened the antibodies' behavior to the early video arcade game, Pacman, which involved an animated creature racing through a maze eating dots. In this case, each 'dot' is a nicotine molecule.

"These little Pacman antibodies then gobble it up and prevent it from reaching its receptors in the brain," he said. "And that's what gives the pleasure from smoking.  So essentially [we are] blocking the nicotine from reaching the brain.  And so you get no effect from the nicotine."

Researchers created the vaccine by taking the genetically-engineered nicotine antibody, inserting it into a harmless virus and directing the virus to infect the liver cells of laboratory mice. With the virus in their nuclei, the liver cells started producing nicotine antibodies, essentially bypassing the immune system and creating a new army of proteins to seek out and destroy any nicotine they might encounter.

"Once we genetically modify their livers to make an antibody against nicotine - so now the antibodies against nicotine are floating around in the blood - and we administer nicotine to the mouse, nothing happens. It's like they are getting water," Crystal added.

Using infrared beams to measure the activity level of the experimental mice, Crystal says nicotine-addicted mice that received the vaccine were just as alert as normal mice. The rodents were also more active than mice that received nicotine but not the vaccine. A single dose of the vaccine was effective for the life of the mice.

Ronald Crystal and colleagues report on their nicotine vaccine in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid