Vaccine May Block the Effect of Nicotine
Doctors May One Day Harness the Immune System to Help People Quit Smoking
Testing a Vaccine Against Nicotine continued...
Finally, researchers showed that vaccinated mice didn't appear to experience any of the physical effects of nicotine.
"If you give a mouse nicotine, they do what humans do, they sort of chill out," Crystal says. "They run around a lot less, their blood pressure and heart rate drop a little bit. If we give nicotine to a mouse that's been immunized by this genetic vaccine, it's like giving the mouse water. They don't respond at all," he tells WebMD.
Michael Fingerhood, MD, medical director of the comprehensive care practice at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., who specializes in the treatment of addiction, called the vaccine a promising approach that warranted more research.
But he noted that there are already medications, such as Chantix, that work by blocking nicotine's effects. Not everyone who uses them is able to successfully quit smoking.
He says that suggests that the addiction to cigarettes goes deeper than the biological effects of nicotine.
"I think smoking is perhaps the most complicated of addictions because there are other aspects to why people have trouble quitting smoking," says Fingerhood, who reviewed the study for WebMD but was not involved in the research.
"Is it a good technique, absolutely, but I don't think it's going to be a panacea," he says. "It may be another way to help our patients."
Crystal agrees. "The caveat of the study is that humans are not just big mice. It works great in mice, but we'll have to see and eventually do a human study."
One thing he wonders about, for example, is whether people could out-smoke the vaccine.
"Could they overpower the vaccine by smoking many cigarettes? We don't know the answer to that," he says.
In research, there are many steps between testing something in mice and testing it in people. Human trials are likely to be years away.