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Successful nicotine vaccine trials


14 Jan 2015


A vaccine that creates an immune response to nicotine has been successfully trialled.

The nicotine vaccine creates antibodies that bind to nicotine molecules.

When a person smokes, the vaccine’s antibodies attach to nicotine, preventing it from entering the central nervous system and the brain.

It is claimed smoking is the leading cause of eight different types of cancer, such as pancreatic and lung cancer.

Scientists from the Scripps Research Institute found previous vaccines failed as they tried to create antibodies for both versions of the nicotine molecule.

Nicotine has both a right-handed and left-handed version of itself, and even though 99% of nicotine found in tobacco is the left-handed version, previous researchers had not previously focused on this version.

Using haptens – nicotine derivatives – the scientists created three vaccines, one using just left or right handed nicotine haptens and a 50/50 mixture of both.

Different lab rats were injected three times over 42 days; with researchers finding the left-handed hapten vaccine resulted in a more effective immune response.

Research associate, Jonathan Lockner, said: “This shows future vaccines should target that left-handed version.

“There might even be more effective haptens out there.”

Smokers trying to quit would still suffer from withdrawal symptoms if using this vaccine.

Professor of chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute, Dr Kim Janda, said he considered the orientation of molecules is “critical” for developing vaccines for other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. 

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