28/06/2012 06:49 BST | Updated 28/06/2012 07:11 BST

Smoking Vaccine: Researchers Develop Jab To Prevent Nicotine Reaching Brain

Although non-smokers may find it hard to believe, cigarettes are intensely pleasurable to those addicted to nicotine.

A puff on a cigarette relieves withdrawal symptoms, and can relax and calm the mind and body - temporarily.

So imagine if humans could be protected from these feelings - would cigarettes remain as addictive?

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York hope not.

The team have developed and successfully tested (in mice) an innovative vaccine to treat nicotine addiction.


The anti-body vaccine blocks addictive nicotine chemicals from reaching the brain, according to a statement.

In the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists describe how a single dose of their novel vaccine protects mice, over their lifetime, against nicotine addiction.

The vaccine is designed to use the animal's liver as a factory to continuously produce antibodies that gobble up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, preventing the chemical from reaching the brain and even the heart.

In tests, mice that were given both both a vaccine and nicotine appeared not to be effected by the chemical.

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However, in contrast, mice that received nicotine and were not treated with the vaccine became more "chilled out".

According to a statement, the mice relaxed, and their blood pressure and heart activity were lowered - signs that the nicotine had reached the brain and cardiovascular system.

The researchers are preparing to test the novel nicotine vaccine in rats and then in primates - steps needed before it can be tested ultimately in humans.

According to the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, if successful, such a vaccine would best be used in smokers who are committed to quitting.

"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," he says.

"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."

"Our vaccine allows the body to make its own monoclonal antibodies against nicotine, and in that way, develop a workable immunity," Dr. Crystal said.

Previously tested nicotine vaccines have failed in clinical trials because they all directly deliver nicotine antibodies, which only last a few weeks and require repeated, expensive injections, added the study's author.

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