An experimental anti-cocaine vaccine blocks the drug from reaching the brain, according to a study of non-human primates. Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York say human trials of the vaccine may begin within a year, Voice of America reports.
The researchers used a radiological tracking technique to show the vaccine stopped cocaine molecules from reaching the brain and triggering a high induced by the brain chemical dopamine. The findings are published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
“The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-man before it can reach the brain,” lead researcher Dr. Ronald G. Crystal said in a news release. “We believe this strategy is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States, who are committed to breaking their addiction to the drug. Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect.”
An earlier study found the vaccine was effective in mice. The vaccine includes pieces of a cold virus and a molecule that mimics cocaine’s chemical structure, the article notes. The body senses the vaccine as an invader and triggers a response, leading the immune system to produce antibodies to destroy cocaine whenever it enters the body.
One vaccine shot lasted 13 weeks in mice, and seven weeks in non-human primates. “An anti-cocaine vaccination will require booster shots in humans, but we don’t know yet how often these booster shots will be needed,” Dr. Crystal said. “I believe that for those people who desperately want to break their addiction, a series of vaccinations will help.”