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Researchers Produce Successful Cocaine Vaccine For Mice

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have produced a vaccine that prevents mice from getting high on cocaine.

The vaccine combines bit of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics cocaine to create an anti-cocaine immunity in mice.

"We've developed a vaccine which elicits antibodies that is immunity against cocaine and so that this was done in mice," said Dr. Ronald Crystal, the study's lead investigator. "When we administer the vaccine to the mice and give the mice cocaine, they don't get a high. They don't run around and get all excited. It's as if they never saw the cocaine."

Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell, said ultimately the goal is to develop a vaccine for humans. He believes the vaccine might be the first to help cocaine abusers battle and break their drug addiction and may help treat other habits like nicotine and heroin.

The antibody immune response produced in the lab mice sequestered the cocaine molecules and prevented them from reaching the brain, which also prevented the effects of cocaine such as hyperactivity.

"The strategy for this vaccine is to block the ability for cocaine when you inhale it to reach the brain," Crystal said. "The vaccine binds up the cocaine in the bloodstream so it can't reach the brain so you don't get the high. So if people take cocaine, and they don't get the high, they'll stop using cocaine."

The vaccine effect lasted for at least 13 weeks—the longest time point evaluated.

The vaccine works terrifically in mice, Crystal said, but they must determine whether it is safe for humans. The researchers must then do human trials and determine if the vaccines works for humans like it does for mice.

If all goes well, the vaccine could be ready for human testing within two years, Crystal said.

"Cocaine is a terrible problem in our society. It ruins a lot of lives. There is no treatment," Crystal said. "If we can develop an effective vaccine, that's a real positive step."

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