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Researchers create vaccine against heroin high

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July 22, 2011

Researchers have created a vaccine against a heroin high

Researchers have created a vaccine against a heroin high

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have created a vaccine that stops the high one gets from from heroin. Designed as a therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction, the vaccine produces antibodies that stop heroin as well as other psychoactive compounds metabolized from heroin from reaching the brain to produce euphoric effects.

Previous efforts to create a clinically viable heroin vaccine have struggled because heroin is metabolized into multiple substances that each produce psychoactive effects. To overcome this problem the researchers, led by the study's principal investigator, Kim D. Janda, targeted not just the heroin itself, but also the chemical it quickly degrades into, 6-acetylmorphine (6AM), and morphine.

They linked a heroin-like hapten (a small molecule that elicits an immune response only when attached to a large carrier) to a generic carrier protein called keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), and mixed it with Alum, a vaccine additive, to create a vaccine "cocktail." This mixture slowly degraded in the body, exposing the immune system to different psychoactive metabolites of heroin such as 6AM and morphine.

"Critically, the vaccine produces antibodies to a constantly changing drug target," said G. Neil Stowe, who is first author of the new study. "Such an approach has never before been engaged with drug-of-abuse vaccines."

Testing the vaccine on rats provided promising results. After several booster shots of the vaccine, heroin addicted rates were found to be less likely to self-administer heroin by pressing on a lever. Only three of the seven rats that received the vaccine self-administered heroin compared to all of the control rats, including those that had been given a vaccine that only targeted morphine.

The team also found that the heroin vaccine was highly specific, only producing an antibody response to heroin and 6AM and not to other opioid-related drugs tested, such as oxycodone, and drugs used to treat opioid dependence, such as methadone, naltrexone, and naloxone.

"The importance of this is that it indicates these vaccines could be used in combination with other heroin rehabilitation therapies," said Janda.

"In my 25 years of making drug-of-abuse vaccines, I haven't seen such a strong immune response as I have with what we term a dynamic anti-heroin vaccine," Janda added. "It is just extremely effective. The hope is that such a protective vaccine will be an effective therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction to heroin."

The Scripps Research team has also recently begun collaborating with researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to see if it is feasible to develop a dual-purpose vaccine against HIV and for the treatment of heroin addiction in a single shot.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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13 Comments

Now this is good science, I tip my hat to you sir's and madams.

Alexander Cardosa
22nd July, 2011 @ 05:37 am PDT

there is already something that works but it wont be approved for use in the us though it is in use in canada. it works works well and is permanent

Phillip Ramirez
22nd July, 2011 @ 07:23 am PDT

This looks like dangerous research. Our bodies *need* narcotics. ... otherwise, our cells would not have morphine receptors!

Are they really , when it comes to clinical trials, risk obliterating the test person's ability to tolerate pain, mediated as it is by the body's own natural narcotics?? How is any vaccinated patient going to endure post-op pain after surgery??? These are critically important questions~!!!!!!

J.A. , M.D.

tkj
22nd July, 2011 @ 07:28 am PDT

to tkj:

They stated in the article that it doesn't effect other opiods like oxycodon. So it shouldn't matter unless it is a heroin derived pain med. Further test could better inform people as to the risks, but I think it sounds great.

Tyler Totten
22nd July, 2011 @ 09:29 am PDT

One can hope and pray that such medical research will find new treatments for addiction to opiate drugs. While the above described research sounds promising, as yet they have only experimented on rats, not people - indeed only seven rats were given the experimental vaccine in this research. Again, let us all hope that soon we will have a new medical treatment to offer all of those with a history of opiate addiction.

Philip Paris, M.D.
22nd July, 2011 @ 10:51 am PDT

Good Job! Now our addicts will only be able to get hooked on man-made opiates! Very profitable for some drug companies, I'd think.

Jim Hinds
22nd July, 2011 @ 12:06 pm PDT

I guess my primary concern is for those dieing of very painful diseases/conditions. It might necessitate induced coma or euthanasia if morphine and similar drugs do not work. I would also be concerned about possibly compromising the positive feedback from exercise. We sure do not want people to exercise any less. What we actually need is to engender a greater reverence for the "real" from an early age and make this a better world to live in where the dreams of more than only a handful are realized. People would not turn to drugs if they respected the real world and felt the real world offered them something. But I suppose that is not really constructive for the inventors of this treatment they could just re-engineer this thing so that it required booster shots rather than being permanent ;)

Mindbreaker
22nd July, 2011 @ 01:51 pm PDT

Why is it that they looked at heroin and said the problem is people are enjoying themselves... not, the problem is that they are getting addicted...

Why not work on the version of heroin that is not addictive instead, so I could finally try it...

Keith Kritselis
22nd July, 2011 @ 03:51 pm PDT

A lot of the "high" from muscle use is from serotonin, not morphine. Regardless of it's usefulness in treating drug dependency in the US, I bet DARPA is paying attention, as many of the warlords in the Middle East rely on opium poppies for income. If we could give this to captured solders enemy and send them back, I am willing to bet it would amount to a pretty good motivation not to want to be a POW. Since we would be providing them with medical care, it would not be torture...

Charles Bosse
22nd July, 2011 @ 06:07 pm PDT

Let's hope it doesn't interfere with natural morphine found in our bodies....

Also I can just see an addict taking a drug at x2 or more of their drug to try to get a high.

Overdosing could be a big side effect?

Stuart Halliday
23rd July, 2011 @ 01:47 pm PDT

@tkj I agree.

As part of my ongoing treatment for the damage I sustained in a MC accident, for the past Five (5) years I have been under the care of a pain specialist, two types of neurosurgeons, a neurologist, a psychiatrist, and an occasional psychologist. Had I been vaccinated against these opioid metabolites that are produced and consumed by our bodies naturally, I am convinced I would have expired from the side effects of the patented synthetic alternatives. For one thing, I discovered I am allergic to Ultram.

csd
24th July, 2011 @ 02:11 pm PDT

I wonder if it cures delusional thing, talking to imaginary friends or having fantasies about magical sticks on the wall?

Mr Stiffy
24th July, 2011 @ 06:29 pm PDT

I can just see this being given to kids by ignorant parents who do not fully understand the implications. I prey this is never brought to human trials.

To take psychoactive substances is prety much human nature and has been going on for thousands of years.

Is it wise to try to change this? What type of human do you get if you make this change? Not a happy one I bet.

Foxy1968
24th July, 2011 @ 09:47 pm PDT
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