TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Anti-cocaine vaccine shows promise during clinical trials

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College announced on Friday that they successfully tested an anti-cocaine vaccine in primates.

Cocaine is a tiny molecule drug that works by producing feelings of pleasure, which it accomplishes by blocking the area of the brain that recycles dopamine. Dopamine, the hormone responsible for feeling pleasure, can then collect on the nerve endings and greatly increase the feelings of pleasure.

Cocaine addiction is a major problem, and there is currently no way to treat its ailments with pharmacotherapy.

The vaccine has shown to prevent cocaine from reaching the brain and producing the high.

"The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-man before it can reach the brain," Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said.

The vaccine works by combining some of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics the structure of cocaine. When the vaccine enters the blood stream, the body sees the cold virus, which now resembles cocaine, and attacks it. Future injections of pure cocaine are similarly attacked because the body now sees the shape of cocaine as a threat.

"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," Crystal says. "Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect."