Scripps explores heroin addiction vaccine

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Scripps Research Institute scientists have created a "dynamic" vaccine to treat heroin addiction. And they say they have proven its therapeutic potential in animal models. The shot targets not just heroin, but also the chemical it quickly degrades into, 6-acetylmorphine (6AM), and morphine to quell the feeling of euphoria those using the drug experience. The findings were published in American Chemical Society's Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

"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," said lead study author Kim Janda. "It is just extremely effective." Seven rats were dosed with the dynamic vaccine, while a control arm received a vaccine that only targeted morphine. Researchers found only three of the 7 rats that got the new vaccine self-administered heroin, while all of those in the control arm self-administered. "To have an animal vaccinated and not show a response to heroin is pretty amazing," noted study co-author George Koob.

The researchers say this vaccine could eventually be added to existing heroin addiction treatments to give users a better shot at breaking their dependence on the drug. "I think a humanized version could be of real help to those who need and want it," noted Koob. The Scripps team is partnering with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to explore the possibility of a single shot for heroin addiction and HIV.

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