Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_93665

Gene therapy 'immunisation' against nicotine successful in mice

2 July 2012
Appeared in BioNews 663

A gene that codes for nicotine antibodies has been successful in immunising mice against the drug's effects. But although the treatment appears to work in mice, any 'smoking vaccine' is still a long way off.

The therapy, created by Ronald Crystal, professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, differs from previously attempted vaccines in its unconventional, gene-based approach.

The gene in question is placed into a carrier called an adeno-associated virus (AAV) together with information that directs the virus towards hepatocytes, or liver cells. Once it reaches the hepatocytes, the gene is inserted and the cells produce a continuous supply of nicotine antibodies.

After the researchers injected the 'vaccine' into nicotine-addicted mice, the animals started to circulate the antibodies in their bloodstream. To test whether these antibodies were doing the job they were designed for, the research team then injected the mice with two cigarettes worth of nicotine. The antibodies managed to capture 83 percent of nicotine before it reached the brain.

The behaviour of the mice changed as well: whereas mice usually reacted to nicotine by 'chilling out', as Professor Crystal put it, the nicotine-addicted mice treated with gene therapy retained a normal activity level.

The therapy is meant to target the addictive effects of nicotine. With nicotine removed from the bloodstream and unable to reach the brain, cigarettes would no longer give the pleasure they used to - making it easier to give up the habit of smoking.

'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', Professor Crystal said.

However, it is uncertain how long it would be until the gene therapy could be tested in humans. So far, AAV-based gene therapy has only been clinically tested in people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or terminal cancer, as the potential benefits more clearly outweigh the risks in these cases.

Unlike patients with terminal diseases, 'smokers are normal people with decades of life ahead of them', Thomas Kosten, professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston told New Scientist. Professor Kosten believes that a better, safer vaccine will be developed by the time AAV-gene therapy has passed the necessary safety tests.

Therapies to help people quit smoking are highly sought after; as many as 70 to 80 percent of people who attempt to quit smoking relapse within half a year. Previous attempts to create a nicotine vaccine failed in clinical trials. These vaccines consisted of nicotine antibodies, and had to be injected repeatedly, making the treatment expensive.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
AAV-Directed Persistent Expression of a Gene Encoding Anti-Nicotine Antibody for Smoking Cessation
Science Translational Medicine |  27 June 2012
A jab to quit smoking: 'DNA vaccine' will halt nicotine cravings and could even be used to stop children starting the habit
Mail Online |  28 June 2012
Gene therapy curbs nicotine addiction in mice
New Scientist |  27 June 2012
New Vaccine for Nicotine Addiction
Science Daily (press release) |  27 June 2012
'Smoking vaccine' blocks nicotine in mice brains
BBC News |  27 June 2012
Vaccine to help smokers quit is a long way off
NHS Choices |  28 June 2012
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
19 February 2018 - by Dr Charlott Repschlager 
Researchers successfully used inactivated induced pluripotent stem cells to elicit an immune response against different cancers in mice...
7 December 2015 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
A gene involved in the brain's reward system has been found to affect people's ability to quit smoking, according to a new study...
2 December 2013 - by Dr Naqash Raja 
A gene mutation has been linked to alcohol preference in lab mice, a team of researchers from five UK universities has found...
10 September 2012 - by Dr Greg Ball 
The Bourne Legacy sees a return of the Bourne franchise, only this time without its eponymous hero, but rather a whole new breed of biologically enhanced undercover CIA agents...
10 September 2012 - by Holly Rogers 
Scientists have restored the sense of smell in mice using a gene therapy designed to repair the cilia - hair-like formations on nasal cells that are important in olfaction...
4 May 2010 - by Harriet Vickers 
Scientists have identified a number of genetic mutations that appear to be associated with the number of cigarettes people smoke a day, the chance of taking up smoking, and the ability of being able to quit smoking...
7 April 2008 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
Scientists have found evidence that there is a strong genetic link to lung cancer. The findings, from three teams in Iceland, France and the US, will help understanding of the genetic basis of the disease and the role tobacco plays in its development. Lung cancer is the...
10 December 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Our ability to learn from making mistakes may be linked to whether or not we carry a particular gene variant which affects our brain's reward system, according to research published last week in the journal Science. The discovery may help to explain why the variant has previously...
13 March 2007 - by Khadija Ibrahim 
According to researchers from the University of Iowa, blood tests could be developed to detect an individual's predisposition to suffer panic attacks or become addicted to substances such as nicotine or cannabis. The research, published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, draws its conclusions from the...
26 January 2006 - by BioNews 
Japanese researchers have found that the number of cigarettes a smoker gets through could be influenced by genetic variations that affect the way the body deals with nicotine. The findings, to be published in the European Respiratory Journal, suggest that the more quickly people break down nicotine, the more cigarettes...
HAVE YOUR SAY
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.