Cocaine Vaccine Shows Promise in Mice

An experimental vaccine tested on mice appears to nullify the effects of cocaine addiction by keeping it from affecting the central nervous system, CNN Health reported Jan. 5.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 1.1 million Americans abused cocaine in any form in 2008. When smoked, injected, or snorted, the well-known addictive substance causes euphoria and a heightened sense of energy in users. It can also dangerously accelerate heart rate and increase blood pressure. 

The new cocaine vaccine, developed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Ronald Crystal at Weil Cornell Medical College, is a combination of “an inactive common-cold virus with a chemical that imitates cocaine,” according to CNN Health. It works by stimulating the auto-immune system to create antibodies that prevent cocaine from “passing through the blood-brain barrier.” 

In the study, vaccinated mice injected with cocaine showed no reaction. Unvaccinated mice “went crazy,” Crystal said, becoming agitated and hyperactive. He said the results were “very promising.”

Crystal hopes the vaccine can be tested on humans in about two years. He said that if the vaccine works on humans, it might be adapted for use with nicotine, heroin, and other addictive substances.

Additional testing of the cocaine vaccine will be needed on mice, rats, and donkeys before it can be tested on humans. “This looks terrific but humans are not big mice,” he said.

The study, “Cocaine Analog Coupled to Disrupted Adenovirus: A Vaccine Strategy to Evoke High-titer Immunity Against Addictive Drugs,” appeared in the Jan. 4, 2011 issue of Molecular Therapy.

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