Cocaine has always been that drug that I only hear about. I see people using it all the time in film, television and books, but I’ve never met a user in my life. I blame that on growing up in Southeastern Kentucky where meth is the poison of choice. Still, there are people out there addicted to the drug and they want to get off. To stop taking any drug is hard, but a new vaccine might just do the trick for cocaine users.
Researchers from all over the country published a paper back in May that claims to have found a way to cure cocaine addiction through a single vaccine. It’s a novel approach that could do a lot of good in the world for those suffering from addition or withdrawal. Here’s how the researchers explain their work:
Cocaine addiction is a major problem affecting all societal and economic classes for which there is no effective therapy. We hypothesized an effective anti-cocaine vaccine could be developed by using an adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer vector as the delivery vehicle to persistently express an anti-cocaine monoclonal antibody in vivo, which would sequester cocaine in the blood, preventing access to cognate receptors in the brain. To accomplish this, we constructed AAVrh.10antiCoc.Mab, an AAVrh.10 gene transfer vector expressing the heavy and light chains of the high affinity anti-cocaine monoclonal antibody GNC92H2. Intravenous administration of AAVrh.10antiCoc.Mab to mice mediated high, persistent serum levels of high-affinity, cocaine-specific antibodies that sequestered intravenously administered cocaine in the blood. With repeated intravenous cocaine challenge, naive mice exhibited hyperactivity, while the AAVrh.10antiCoc.Mab-vaccinated mice were completely resistant to the cocaine. These observations demonstrate a novel strategy for cocaine addiction by requiring only a single administration of an AAV vector mediating persistent, systemic anti-cocaine passive immunity.
If that went over your head, here’s the simple version – The researchers have found a way to deliver a protein-based gene via virus that bonds to cocaine in the bloodstream. This protein prevents the cocaine from ever reaching the brain, thus stopping the effects of the drug.
So couldn’t this vaccine be abused by people who would want to take cocaine without the negative side effects? The protein stops all the effects, including the high, thus making cocaine worthless to people who took the vaccine. It would be especially helpful for those trying to quit as they would no longer experience the high that they seek. Of course, there still is the problem that people may turn to other drugs once cocaine loses its splendor.
Still, this is the kind of innovation that’s needed in the war on drugs. You can have all the law enforcement in the world, but people are still going to do drugs. You win if you can take away the only reason people use the drug in the first place.[h/t: Sci-News]