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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid