Tiny Test Subjects, Gigantic Breakthrough

Scientists achieve "cocaine immunity" in mice

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Anti-cocaine vaccine works wonders in mice by developing a cocaine "immunity" and preventing the drug from having any effect on the brain.

According to recent statistics, 5.3 million Americans over the age of 12 have abused cocaine and 1.1 million have abused crack, a less pure form of the drug. Abuse of the drug can lead to serious cardiovascular and brain complications, such as heart attack and stroke, and even sudden death.

The drug works by swiftly entering the blood system and reaching the brain, where it increases dopamine levels which give the user feelings of pleasure and reward. However, the high is short (anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, 10 to 15 for crack) and the person needs to use again to recapture the rush.

A breakthrough in helping people quit cocaine has potentially been found by scientists from the Scripps Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University.

By creating a vaccine which fuses a cocaine-like substance and the common cold, the team successfully created cocaine immunity in mice. The team is hopeful that this approach can also be used to break other addictions.

The lead investigator calls their findings "very dramatic" and thinks the vaccine could soon work in humans as well. Instead of working like other drugs which attempt to inhibit or affect the brain's reactions to cocaine, the vaccine could prevent the drug from affecting the brain at all.

The vaccine lasted an astonishing 13 weeks in the mice, a first for this kind of treatment. While extensive trials still need to be held and human testing needs to be done, the researchers are hopeful that this vaccine will be a useful addition to anti-cocaine therapy in the future.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 5, 2011
Last Updated:
January 5, 2011