Nicotine Vaccine Shows Promise
May 15, 2005 12:40 AM   Subscribe

Nicotine Vaccine Shows Promise. Smokers may have some help kicking the habit from an inoculation being tested by several companies.
posted by sjvilla79 (18 comments total)
More details here and here (.pdf) that 2nd link being from the Cytos homepage. The LA Times site requires registration by the way -- Reuters and a bunch of others have similar reports.
posted by peacay at 1:55 AM on May 15, 2005

Oops...this is the Cytos homepage. That other one is their offshoot page on the vaccine.
posted by peacay at 2:19 AM on May 15, 2005

Maybe someone can clarify this "cure". How does this work? This drug is a nicotine antibody, which implies that it blocks (significant amounts of) nicotine from reaching the CNS. I don't have firsthand experience, but most people who want to quit smoking, can't, due to dependence and craving. How does the antibody help with that? In fact, it seems you can't scratch the itch. So, does this work by forcing your body/brain to accept that nicotine can't help you anymore? A Pavlovian conditioning, if you like. Apologies if this is covered in the details. I just read the news releases.
posted by Gyan at 2:27 AM on May 15, 2005

I quit smoking the day my doctor was recommending I be put on heart medication. I hang around smokers and don't want one.
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:02 AM on May 15, 2005

<- poorly written post
posted by Dean Keaton at 3:03 AM on May 15, 2005

Well done, Dean!
posted by sjvilla79 at 3:43 AM on May 15, 2005

From the pdf:
Nicotine, an alkaloid derived from tobacco leaves, has been shown to be the principal addictive component of tobacco. Upon inhalation of cigarette smoke, nicotine passes into the bloodstream and within seconds penetrates through the blood-brain barrier, where it stimulates specific neurons in the brain. Stimulation of these neurons leads to the release of messenger molecules, which give rise to an almost immediate reward and a feeling of pleasure. This sensory stimulus is critical to the addictive properties of nicotine and causes a high relapse rate after quitting attempts.
I was wondering the same thing gyan (I went outside for a smoke while wondering). The 2-armed antibodies will presumably latch onto a 3-dimensional structure on the nicotine molecule and thus prevent it from either going through the blood-brain barrier or from effectively combining with the neurological receptor sites. So, in turn, a vaccinated individual will derive little in the way of feedback pleasure they previously enjoyed. I imagine it would be bloody frustrating actually. It seems to be a novel approach. If I ever decide to try to give up and the usual methods of quitting aren't working then I'd consider this.
posted by peacay at 3:48 AM on May 15, 2005

Oh, I should have read a bit further...
Vaccination with CYT002-NicQb has been shown to induce high levels of nicotine-specific antibodies
that bind nicotine in the blood. As the complex of nicotine attached to an antibody is too large to pass the blood-brain-barrier, nicotine uptake into the brain and the subsequent stimulation of nicotine-perceptive neurons in the brain is believed to be significantly reduced or even prevented.

posted by peacay at 4:20 AM on May 15, 2005

Yeah so you'd end up smoking more and more. Somewhat similar to what happens when you switch to 'lights'.
posted by dhruva at 5:43 AM on May 15, 2005

I wonder if they'll add this some time to the triple-antigen (or whatever they call it nowadays) shots that babies get to ward off some of the other (infectious) nasty 'realities' of life?
posted by peacay at 5:56 AM on May 15, 2005

And I wonder if they'll end up adding it to just about anything we 'get a buzz' from?
posted by j.p. Hung at 6:52 AM on May 15, 2005

I just caught another glimpse of this story on the local news and it concluded by saying that this treatment was still officially about 3 to 5 years away. I guess that's just enough time for all smokers to keep kidding themselves about giving up hey. Anyway, I'm wondering when the alcohol equivalent of this vaccine is coming out though. Perhaps one day we'll be able to have both in a combo? That would be neat. I'll have to remember to sign my (future) kids up for a shot like this as soon as they're old enough.
posted by sjvilla79 at 7:25 AM on May 15, 2005

The problem I see with this, as a smoker, is that I stopped 'enjoying' my smokes long ago. I don't feel anything good when I have one; I just don't feel the urge to have one for another 45 minutes afterward.

I hope this works, but I seriously doubt it will be a cure-all. I already smoke for little to no 'benefit'... Good shot, though. (Har har har!)
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:45 AM on May 15, 2005

Dark Messiah writes "but I seriously doubt it will be a cure-all"

It won't 'cure' you if you don't have the vaccine. But if you do, you'll probably be going outside more than every 45 minutes. That will likely lose its appeal quite quickly, especially when there's no feedback enjoyment mechanism. It all gets down to the efficacy of the vaccine. If 1 in 100 nicotine molecules gets through then you need to smoke 100 times as many cigarettes to get the same (chemical) pleasure. The vaccine doesn't of course deal with the very strong psychologicophysical elements - that of lighting up, dragging on the cigarette, the warm smoke going down the throat, the finger-cigarette fiddling thing ---- all pavlov's dog type pleasurable traits of the addiction. But I guess they'll all subside when there's no payoff.

Have you ever tried giving up Dark Messiah? You sound like a perfect candidate. As for me, on the other hand, I still enjoy it > 50% of the time. *sigh*
posted by peacay at 8:25 AM on May 15, 2005

Ok well my friend was involved in the clinical trials for this drug. He didn't "smoke more and more" to get the nicotine at all. However, he did get enormously frustrated that smoking wasn't quieting the cravings and eventually he dropped out of the study so that he could smoke like a regular smoker again. While he was on the medication though, he only smoked 1 or 2 a day, mostly out of hope. I tried to get in the study but they rejected me, so I quit cold turkey out of spite. I'm still a non-smoker, so make of that what you will.
posted by yodelingisfun at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2005

The one part of this that is neglected is, as yodelingisfun mentioned, is the physcological effects that still remain -- the non-reptilian parts of your brain will remember the benefits derived from smoking even if the physiological parts don't. Still, most of the smoking cessation programs have a strong emphasis on removing "triggers" (smoking w/ friends, after eating), and this is the most logically sound way to remove the ultimate trigger -- the immediate effects of nicotine in the bloodstream.
posted by sleslie at 10:07 AM on May 15, 2005

The term vaccination bugs me for some reason - it's not really a 'vaccine' in the normal sense of the word. Antibodies get cycled out pretty fast so you have to keep injecting it every day/other-day. Such large amounts of chronic foreign protein could cause a lot of problems...

I for one would not volunteer for clinical trials, regarddless of any perceived efficacy.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:29 AM on May 15, 2005

Another view.
posted by peacay at 3:19 AM on May 16, 2005

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